Sigmund Freud.

Elm City Review (Volume 9) online

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he just stared at the closed eyelids.

"We were both FNG's assigned to the same platoon. I was 22 but Ron
was only 18," My father had said when he told me Ron died.

46



"The day after graduating high school, Ron was sent away to boot
camp. I was a little older and could at least guess what was going to happen.
He had no idea what to expect. Well in short, we got to be good friend because
we were the new guys, and nobody wanted to talk to us except the new guys.
So we sort of stuck together. We both did drugs over there because everyone
did, and there was always the possibility that we would die. Afterwards, a lot
of guys needed a lot of time to get over everything and accept what happened.
Took me and Ron years. Probably not until a few years after did we actually talk
about it. Those few times we could actually talk about it helped, and a lot of
thinking, going over everything a million times. After time though, it got to be
so you could put it away in your mind, and things got to resemble normal. Even
Ron did this, and he got better after awhile for the most part. But going to war at
18, coming home at 19 and being addicted to drugs, what a hell of a way to be
welcomed to adulthood."

He got up and squeezed his friend on the shoulder. The owner of the
home started to say not to touch the body, but then Ron's father looked up and
said, "It's O.K." My father walked over to the mother, and as soon as he hugged
her, she started crying.

My grandmother and I both knelt down, and she said a prayer while I
just stared at the body. It's weird to look at a body and realize that they are no
longer a person, just a memory and a body. It didn't look as bad as I thought,
being a drug overdose. The neck didn't look normal, but I knew that the body
was Ron's. I could accept that he wasn't going to move, but it didn't translate in
my mind as fear, but more as shock. I couldn't cry, and it made me feel guilty
just staring at his body. As we got up, my father said something almost child-
like, as if he were a boy talking to his mother. "I miss him."

And as he let go of Ron's mother, she said, "You were his best friend.
He always loved when you guys would get together. Seeing you at work every
day."

I noticed that my father's eyes were teary and red. I couldn't quickly
think of another time I had seen him cry. "Me too," was all he seemed to be able
to come up with. Then he hugged Ron's father quickly.

My father tried to get Ron to stop using drugs. And Ron really tried, but
he couldn't shake the addiction. "He would stop for awhile, but it would always
seem to come back for him," my father also told me when he said Ron was dead.
It didn't make me think any less of him, but I was surprised because I would
have never been able to guess that he was addicted. I'd always thought he and
my father had quit around the same time.

I stepped up then, and I didn't know what to say. I almost said the
generic, all purpose "I'm sorry for your loss," but it's almost an insult because
it pretty much says you have no emotion over this person's death. I also felt a
little weird because I didn't really know these people very well, and it was an
uncomfortable thought to open my mouth and tell them that I missed him and

47



how much I looked up to him. My father thankfully broke the silence after a
sniffle and a feeble attempt at clearing his throat. "This is my son," he said and
Ron's mother, who was close to my grandmother's age, replied as if she had
seen this all before too.

"You've gotten big since the last time I saw you." I smiled a little and
gave her a hug and then turned to Ron's father and shook his hand saying, "I'm
sorry."

My dad stepped forward and I went around the back of him slightly
away from the crowd. There were people now standing, lingering to talk to the
parents, so my father didn't have time to chat. "This is for Ron. If you don't
mind, I'd like to have it buried with him." I guess it was some sort of letter for
Ron.

"Of course," Ron's mother said and took a tight hold of the envelope.

My father said, "I'll stop by the house later."

"O.K." and as they hugged, she said, "Thank you for coming," and my
father shook Ron's dad's hand.

"Good to see you," Ron's mother said as they hugged.

"Oh, you too. We'll have to get together soon and have coffee," my
grandmother said.

"Great, any time you'd like," said Ron's mother.

Then my grandmother hugged and kissed Ron's father and I said,
"Bye." I don't think there was much else that I could say. My father's eyes' were
still red, but he wasn't crying any more. He looked over my head one last time at
Ron's body and then looked down and exhaled. He put his arm around me as we
walked out of the funeral hom, and it felt like he needed me for support, like I
was actually helping him with something.

As we drove away, I saw the model standing outside. I think he waved
at us before ducking into his car. "Who was that guy talking to you in the
beginning?" I asked.

"I think he was Ron's connection. Never actually met the guy, but Ron
would never give me a straight answer about him," my father says, pulling out a
cigarette to smoke.

"He actually showed up to the wake? What an asshole."

"Yeah. But it's over with; I don't want to talk about it anymore."

The feeling I got when he put his arm around my shoulder was slipping.
I wanted to talk about Vietnam with him. I guess I sort of wanted to help him
because I knew he was upset. I figured if I talked about Ron, he might have a
little more to say.

"It's going to be weird without Ron coming over the house to hang
out."

"I said it's over with. I don't want to talk about it anymore."

It felt like he shut a door in my face. I just stared out the window
the rest of the way home, feeling kind of angry. When we pulled into our

48



driveway, our house looked too familiar, almost like I had expected something to
change while we were gone. My father stopped the car and left the keys on the
dashboard.

"Going for a walk," he said just before he shut the door. I grabbed the
keys off the dashboard and watched him go down the street, reaching into his
front pocket for his pack of cigarettes.

My grandma said, "That was a nice service."

"Yeah," I said.

"Oh, here, do you want that piece of gum now?"

I took it and went inside.

What made me cry that night in my room was not really so much
Ron, but my father. I remembered what Ron's mother had said to my father at
the wake. "You were his best friend." And at some point when we got home, I
realized that my father didn't have a best friend anymore.



49



Fallen

Kim Mello

The familiar electronic ding that the glass door made as he walked into the
tattoo parlor ran a sharp pain through Ste's throbbing head. He took his sunglasses
off, careful of his bruised left eye, and scanned the place for his artist. He saw the
owner, Jimmy, already hard at work at ten-thirty in the morning on coloring the
right sleeve of a forty-something-year-old biker. He turned his head the other way
and spotted the bare milky- white skin of a young girl wearing only her bra and jeans
through the slight opening in the Chinese curtain surrounding her. Ste had a quick
moment of remembering his own initial doubts but the noise from the backroom
cleared his mind as he watched Troy step out.

"Hey." The skirmy guy nodded at him while taking a step backwards into
the black wooden beads he had just entered through. "Tina!" The green four-leaf
clover on his neck strained above the protruding muscles. "Ste's here!" Troy was a
visible six inches shorter than him when he gave Ste's good hand a friendly pound.
"Nice cast." He laughed.

Ste shrugged while gently flexing the aching fingers under the bright blue
plaster covering his right wrist. Then Tina came in from the backroom.

His little sister had always been a gorgeous girl. Things hadn't been easy
for him in the neighborhood when Tina had started going through puberty. She
had their mother's long golden hair until she started dying everything but the roots
bright pink. Her odd combination of their papi's dark eyes and their mom's green
ones looked even more intense with her popular smoky liner and bright red lips.
She kept her olive skin out of the sun to protect her work and enjoyed wearing
studded belts and heavy chains around her tiny waist.

She was silent as she ran her finger gently above the three butterfly stitches
that were holding his eyebrow together while he just stared at the barcode on the
underside of her wrist. Below the small multi-sized lines were the numbers that
coincided with both of their birthdays. It was the first tattoo she'd ever done.

"It looks better than it did a few days ago." She sighed before crossing
her arms just under her larger than average chest. She stared him down, the only
woman half his size that could do it properly. "Are you sure about this, Steven?
You could always-"

"I'm sure, Tina." Ste stated with true conviction.

"Ok. I'll get my shit ready."

He sat down in the empty area that was normally reserved for the friends
that came along for moral support. He gently took off his leather coat because of his
sore lefl: shoulder and the enormous scab on his right elbow. He was left wearing
only a white wife-beater, his unofficial lifetime uniform. He sat back and closed
his eyes to wait.



50



Ste hadn't planned on leaving his small apartment the night he met Callie
Bennet. He had spent two weeks straight pounding nails in the burning summer
sun and mixing drinks by the cool moonlight. He'd only been getting five hours
of sleep between jobs and he had really just wanted to spend his first weekend off
passed out for twenty-four hours without interruption.

Marco had convinced him to go out. His cousin had been the leading factor
in a lot of Ste's bad decisions. It was too bad that the judicial system didn't think
"but Marco made me do it" was a reasonable excuse. Ste's criminal record would
have been significantly shorter if that were the case.

They had actually ended up at The Deer Company. Marco just wanted
the free drinks he would be guaranteed, while Ste couldn't believe he was walking
into work on his first night off. He grabbed a seat at the end of the bar so he could
see the sports highlights and talked Tiffany through the high hour of her shift. She
had only been on for a week so she was more than happy with any tricks that the
seasoned veteran was willing to give up.

"What's in a T-Bird again?" She asked him out of the side of her
mouth.

"Shot of whiskey, amaretto, and OJ. Double of pineapple juice and a little
grenadine." He whispered back so the customer couldn't hear.

"Thank you." She mouthed as she backed away to the liquor bottles.

He was smiling as he finished the last of his Bud Light. Since the colleges
around the area had just come out of summer break, the bar was pretty packed.
None of the other bartenders were really considering him a priority, so Ste went
and grabbed himself another beer out of the cooler. He was just about to crack the
cap on the edge of bar when he heard Callie 's laugh. It reminded him of the sounds
that he had always imagined were waiting for him at the pearly gates. It cut right
through the Johnny Cash playing fi-om the jukebox. He knew before even looking
at Callie that his life would never be right again.



"Ste!" Tina yelled and he walked back into the shop.

His sister had everything setup; he recognized all of it fi-om the first time
he had done this. The massage-style chair had that hospital covering material
over it. The wheeled table next to it had what looked like a carefully transformed
dentist drill and four plastic shot cups full of orange, white, yellow, and red paint
neatly placed on top of it. Tina was standing up with her hair pulled back into a
long ponytail and her stencil in one blue-gloved hand. She dropped the outline on
her stool for a second to help him take his tight shirt off. Ste stared down at his
six-pack as he straddled the chair and waited for his sister to line everything up.
She used a cold, damp sponge to transfer the new design to the left side of his back.
He heard her sigh as she tossed the paper into the trashcan.

"Do you want to see it?"

• 51



"When it's done." His voice came out muffled since his mouth was resting
against his cast.

"Are you sure you don't want-"

"I trust you."

Tina sighed again.

"You know she is my greatest work."

Ste thought about the blonde angel that was already taking up the majority
of his left shoulder and honestly wasn't worried about the quality of his sister's art.
All he could think about was the reason he had decided to get the tattoo and how
badly he wanted to forget it.

"This up here is going to hurt more." She brushed her latex fingers over
his shoulder blade.

"Ok," he answered when he noticed that she was waiting for a
response.

He heard the machine start to hiss and prepared himself The first poke
made his teeth clench tight and his eyes go ice cold for a few miserable seconds,
but he quickly lolled into the numb state that he was getting all too comfortable
with.



Ste and Callie ended up spending every minute between his work schedule
and her classes with each other. He'd visit the dorm and take her out for some fi'ee
entertainment that only the locals knew about. She came by his crap-hole of a place
to avoid a few of her roommate's fiiends and ended up leaving some clothes and a
toothbrush behind. It had been hard for him their first winter when she went back
home to Florida.

Chuck and Mary Bennet were working people. Chuck had owned his
own auto shop since he was twenty-five and Mary was the most popular English
teacher at Harman High School. Callie was their only child. They were so proud
that she was finishing her double major in the five-year program that Northeastern
University followed for all of its students.

What they weren't happy about was the fact that their baby girl was
spending so much time with a twenty-six year old that was half Puerto Rican no
matter how white he looked. Ste had his mom's light skin and eyes but his papi's
dark hair and hard bone structure made it clear that he wasn't your average white
boy. Plus his short police record, two jobs, and life's aspiration of being a simple bar
owner didn't fit the profile of their perfect match for their high-priced accountant
daughter. He was below her, and they hadn't hid how they felt about him the few
times he'd seen them.

But then Callie didn't cared what they thought. She'd been turned on by



52



his stint in jail and liked the dangerous reputation that had followed him ever since.
She also told him that she had never listened to her parents when it came to her
love life and wasn't about to start.

"We can't choose who we fall for," she always told him when he was
feeling particularly vulnerable. "And I've fallen for you."

He remembered the first time he had returned the favor and been that open
about his feelings with her. Callie had just come back after the New Year and they
hadn't been able to keep their hands off of each other.

"I love the way your jeans look on my floor." Ste commented while lying
on his side staring at the scattered mess of their clothing around his apartment.

"Well, I love the fact," Callie stopped to kiss her way up his back, "that
you helped get them there." She wrapped her arm around his waist and nuzzled
her head into his neck; her soft blonde hair tickling his shoulder. He could feel her
steady heartbeat against his spine as he laced his fingers through hers. He kissed
them, preparing himself to say what he had been too afi*aid to say before enduring
a month without her.

"I love you," he whispered and quickly found himself waiting.

Callie 's heartbeat tripled as she took her time absorbing what he had
confessed. His own heart and body were stuck in place.

Instead of saying the same phrase back to him, Callie made a heart shape
of kisses on the back of his left shoulder.

"This is mine." Her voice was hoarse like she was about to cry. "This spot
belongs to me."



Tina hit the bone that she'd mentioned and Ste winced.

"Sorry." She pulled her left hand away. "I told you. Didn't I tell you?"
Her voice rose.

"I haven't been taking the painkillers the doc told me to. My body is going
to hurt whether or not you're sticking me with that thing."

"God dammit Steven!" Tina's blasphemous choice of cursing made Ste
turn his head the other way to look at her.

"That was the Lord's name. Sis," he reprimanded.

"Least of my worries. I shouldn't even be doing this." She shook her head.
"This is so unethical."

"It's not unethical to inflict pain on someone that knows it's coming," Ste
replied even though it was evident that Tina had been talking to herself.

"That's not what I'm talking about and you know it. I know that you're
not emotionaly stable enough to make this decision. This is going to be permanent,
Ste. Permanent."

"That's what I thought last time, remember?" He lifted his head up further
to show her how serious he was. "Some things aren't permanent no matter what

. 53



people promise."

Tina stared back at him for a while before nodding her head.

"I know... I know," she repeated while pressing her hand back into his
skin.

*

It wasn't until after Callie had graduated and went back home for a month
that Ste had first suspected anything. He had decided to rent a new apartment for
the two of them and had invested Marco's services.

"Listen Brother," Marco leaned forward in the pink upholstered chair
when the clerk left them to get the check. "You know I'm cool with the chica, but
is she really worth the bar?"

"Yea Marco, Callie is."

His cousin had never called Callie by her name but then Ste had thought
it was because Marco hadn't liked the way he'd changed since meeting her.

"I don't know." Marco rubbed his shaved head as he pushed back into
his seat. "That Tiffany would never force you to give up your dreams so she could
live the way she is used to."

"Callie doesn't even know that I'm doing this." Ste ignored his cousin's
mention of Tiffany's crush on him. "It's a surprise for when she gets back."

"Whatever." Marco looked the other way. "I still don't have to like it."

"We can't choose who we fall for." Ste repeated Callie 's words. "I've
really fallen for her."

Marco paused. Ste remembered that silence between them perfectly.

"I can tell." Marco kept his gaze away and had a hint of sympathy in his
voice.

"I asked her to marry me."

"You what?" Marco snapped his head back to look at him.

"I asked her to be my wife, Cous'."

"What'd she say?" His words ran into each other as they left his mouth.

Marco was the tough one out of the two of them. He never let his emotions
get in the way; it would have been bad for his name on the street. Women were
just a means to pleasure for him, so he had never understood Ste's commitment to
all of his serious girlfiiends. But then Marco didn't have a younger sister to teach
him compassion either; it definitely wasn't an emotion someone got growing up
with four abusive older brothers. Those were the excuses Ste had used to explain
his cousin's strange behavior, especially on that day.

"Would you empty out your life's saving for a girl who refused you?"

Marco's face dropped for a minute before his pager went off. He pulled
it off of his belt and brought the thin screen in ft-ont of his face.

"A client?" Ste asked him.

"As always." Marco got up from his chair. "I'm going outside to use the
payphone."

54



"Did you give any thought to my offer?" Tina asked.

"What offer?" Ste still had his eyes closed.

"About staying with me and Troy?"

'TSTo."

"No you haven't thought about it?" Tina wiped his back with a cloth.

"I'm not living with you."

"Come on." She sounded frustrated. "How comfortable is the backroom
at The Company?"

"Hey." He turned to look at her. "I'm lucky Barb is letting me keep my
job, nevermind giving me a room after what went down."

"If you're worried about rent, you know we wouldn't charge you."

Rent wasn't what was worrying him. Just the thought of watching his
baby sister and her boyfriend all sweet and happy on a daily basis made his already
uneasy stomach flop over. He rolled his head the other way.

"I need my own place."

Tina stopped her work upon realization.

"Are you going to get it back?" She asked.

"I don't know if I want it back."



*



Ste had been called in for the afternoon shift because Tiffany had gone
M.I. A. He and Callie had both requested the day off from work to do some wedding
stuff which they had finished the majority of earlier that morning. He had also
made a seven o'clock dinner reservation at one of the more expensive restaurants
in Boston.

Callie's firm had really been breaking her spirits, and Ste had wanted to
give her one stress-free night. Being a tall pretty woman in her early twenties had
cancelled out her multiple degrees and convinced her bosses that it was okay to
treat her like a dumb blonde. The restaurant was way out of his budget but then
Ste had stopped counting the number of commas in his bank statement the day he
had bought the five thousand dollar engagement ring that was sitting on Callie's
left hand.

Ste told Callie to invite one of her girlfriends to go to the restaurant and
report back to him about what the food was like.

"I'll see if Helena is up to it," she said before giving him a kiss at the
door.

"I'm going to kill Tiffany when I see her again." Ste still had his arm
wrapped around Callie's waist with his forehead pressed up against hers.

"It's fine." Callie laughed while shooing him down the hall. "Go."

55



"Bye Angel." Ste said before getting into the elevator.

It was late February, but the groundhog had hexed them with continued
snow. To keep themselves warm, people were coming into the bar for a shot or
two of Jack Daniels before going out to brave the cold again. They had a decent
crowd, the regular four-beers-before-going-back-to-the-wife guys were all there, but
Ste was only thinking about how he'd disappointed Callie. He was just starting to
forget when Tiffany came walking in five hours late. She was completely clueless
and smiled at Ste like she hadn't ruined his day. She'd actually thought she was
coming in early for her nightshift. Ste couldn't get mad at her though. It's not like
she had killed her cell phone battery on purpose.

Ste got back to his apartment building an hour after their reservations had
been set. He had grabbed some Chinese food on his way home assuming that Callie
was enjoying filet mignon with Helena. He remembered twirling his keys in his
hand as he went up the elevator. The only warning he received that he wasn't going
to enjoy what he was about to see happened because his keys slid off of his finger
when he was inches away from the door. He had put his hand on the knob to steady
himself as he squatted down and was more than a little surprised when he found
his home unlocked. He quickly grabbed his keys and walked into his apartment,
which was the first place he had lived in that was actually worth stealing fi-om, on
the balls of his feet.

He was about to call out when he heard Callie cry out. It wasn't the sound
he had been expecting to hear; it wasn't a cry of pain. As he walked towards their
shared bedroom, the easily recognizable sounds of rustling sheets and their squeaky
headboard got louder while the smell of his spicy food grew stronger.

When Ste saw Callie 's head thrown back against the pillows and Marco
lick his lips before placing them down on CalHe's delicate collarbone, everything
clicked in his head. He knew why Marco had always refused to join the couple
and Helena out to dinner. He knew why Callie had always gotten quiet and distant
whenever he'd tell her about Marco's latest run-in with the cops. He knew why the
two of them never talked to each other when he was around. He knew why Callie
had never actually said out loud that she loved him.

Then Ste dropped his Captain Wong's Orange Chicken Special sideways
on the tan rug.

"Oh my God," he heard Callie say but couldn't bring himself to look at
her.

Marco called out to him but Ste was already leaving the scene. He was out
of the building and back at The Deer Company before they even finished putting
their clothes back on. Tiffany asked him what was wrong as he stormed behind
the bar. He responded by grabbing a shot glass and a bottle of Grey Goose before
sitting down on one of the stools.

He couldn't remember the exact number of shots he had downed by the
time his two least favorite people walked into the bar. With his highly developed


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