East Coast Elegy For A Broken Boy

East Coast Elegy For A Broken Boy

A Story by jcarlson33
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Urban drama with concise and informal word choice. Grit and realism plain and simple with this one.

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So Sammy and I are walking down 18th and Santa Flora St. to find some obscure café to take our mind off things. I couldn’t find anything worthwhile in the past eight blocks; I don’t know why she insists on this part of town.

            “Don’t you think we would’ve crossed it by now?” I said.

“You’re always so impatient! Just-“

“Look, I don’t know why I’m going with you anyway, first you’re the free girl on the streets and now you come to me for relationship advice?” I told her.

There was fierceness in Sammy’s eyes. She kinda knew how to convey it with that special face of hers. It almost made you think you could trust her. Still, there was something I wanted, something I could see in those hazel globes with their large black craters.

“Guess it was 19th and Santa Lina. They must be in here.” Sammy urged.

            Inside there were a variety of urban vampires. I spied a group of suits from the financial district a few miles downtown from high atop M&T buildings and stock exchanges. The hippy types from the gentrified mess of Chinatown loomed close too, but I just wanted a damn coffee. I also wanted something Sammy had… but I wasn’t sure what it was.

            “White Mocha with a double shot and…?”

            “Large Cappucerino” I said awkwardly.

            “Wh- what?” Sammy stuttered, trying to hold it together.

            “F**k it, minus well try it and be the hippest.” I told her as we stepped out of line, my face had some rogue but I tried to look cool.

Anyway, as far as love goes - I don’t care if this girl is interested or not. The bottom line is that she’s friends with Lana Simmons who practically breaks hearts all over town. The thought of it makes me want a cigarette. The short Marlboro’s have a strange burn, I suck one down and stare out the window as Sammy says something about her mother and an adventure she had in their Colorado cabin. I couldn’t give a s**t enough, I couldn’t see past what was beyond my cloudy head… not about the grizzly bear she encountered stoned and with some Mandingo ten years ago, not about the first bottle of tequila she sipped on the summit of some mountain in God’s Valley. Really - I was just in my own head.

“So, do you want to order anything?” Sammy asked. That girl’s smile was gleaming in the sunlight through the venetian blinds, the dust of the diner and the bustle of business-a******s; along with the diluted-dirt-water they called coffee. All of that was gone with her smile. Still, I was fucked up from the night before, so what could I judge of romantic things like a smile or a hazel shade of that weird ponytail that gets me stirred up.

“Yeah you like pecan pie right? Let’s indulge a bit,” I told her plainly.

“Sounds good” She smiled again, I guess she was coming out of it.

“So… do you live around here, or is this just a detour?” She inquired.

“I come here every now and then - it’s really for the $2 coffee and a chance to stare at a few malcontents.” I told her, as I sipped on that putrid brew they called “medium blend”, the smoke clogged up my taste buds enough, so it wasn’t so bad. I took out another and lit one for Sammy, like a gentleman ought to.

“When do you think they’ll be here? I just want to go home…” Sammy said, as she took her first draw, the clouds surrounded her face, it looked pretty, and it looked flawed.

“Look, baby, it ain’t a big thing, okay? We’ll be home in no time. It’s just, well… Lana is a different kind of gal - she and I have some history, so it may get weird, ya know?”

 I was trying to reassure her, but she was young, she was probably still high too.

“Fine…” She almost whispered as she laid her head near the window pane.

Sammy’s tan lines were clearly visible, but I didn’t mind. I didn’t mind her in a lot of ways. In some other ways, I knew she was more of the same. Flip-flops, lime green tank top, bra straps hanging down and her hair up in a messy bun. Sammy made it look good; she made it look like something I loved about Lana.

“Well hey there you two.” Lana seemed to enter and catch me unawares.

That brunette with the porcelain skin, and the rose red lipstick that never fails to please. Yeah, she was a different kind of gal. She was one I wished I remembered more about. She was supposed to marry the mayor and be the housewife of the century, but the prim and proper doesn’t seem fit for that gal. Some people even said she became a dancer in a very exclusive club downtown for some big wig cash (Sunset Pleasures or something), but I don’t believe it for a second. I frequent that sex strip all the time, and in the five clubs worth visiting at least, I never saw a girl like her.

“Lana! Well, isn’t this a pleasure?” I said

“Oh you’re always the gentleman…?

“Clyde, uh, Clyde Wilkens.” I quickly added.

“Oh right, of course.” She added, with her face like stone.

“Is that with an I or Y?”

“Ah it doesn’t matter, do you know where we have met before? What about Theodore, is that rascal coming?” I said anxiously.

“Oh don’t worry babe, I bet he wouldn’t just, uh... Hang us out.” Sammy said with a slur. She took a long drag and tried to smile reassuringly towards Lana, she probably knew there was something between us, but who gives a f**k.

“Yes, I finally can meet this lovely lady of yours, Mr.Wilkens.” Lana said calmly.

“She really is a catch, almost a bit out of your league? Oh- but you’re a real gentleman.” She flashed me a grin and touched my shoulder. Talk about a fire lighting me up from my stupor.

“I’m a lucky man I will be the first to admit it.” I smiled meekly, trying to maintain eye contact with those icy blues. She would almost look better as a blonde, but I couldn’t complain either way.

“So what can I get you, Lana darling?” I continued, “You really are a joy to see again.”

“Oh maybe I’ll try that sophisticated brew you have, the Cappuccino?” she said coyly.  

“Minus well be, its Cappucerino, made with soy milk and lemon.” I laughed.

“Sounds horrid.” She said, as her tongue peeked out from between her lips. That was a queer gesture. But I took it as a come-on. Maybe she did remember me.

We exchanged conversation about what Theodore would do when he finally left the city, how me and Sammy would move out to a two bedroom and all our big Dreams. All of it flew by in a haze as I got another refill and huffed cigarettes until we got back to Lana’s car. I said my goodbyes to her. I knew it wasn’t for the last time. I would see her after a chill night with Sammy over a bong and her obsessive reading of Goethe. Whiskey and Goethe won’t do, but neither does Sammy’s idea of what Goethe is " what does he know about how the 90s is? I never understood him anyway, always drunk and reading in Gym class trying to impress Sammy. That was a simpler time in 10th grade I suppose.

Still, Sammy and I have gone back longer than Lana. It was midnight before she went to bed finally. The moon wasn’t out. The clouds hung low and a thin fog permeated throughout the streets.

I waded through narrow corridors " no one was out " the smog did not sleep, though, and I covered my mouth to avoid hacking up a lung again. The factories that still ran had diesel fuel and coal " what a shithole neighborhood. Still, I didn’t have hope for us; I couldn’t tell if that was good or bad. I wanted a sense of freedom. So what if we moved to near the M&T and the bridge to uptown? Then it would be another grind for me, singing half-heartedly in some dingy f****n’ Red Lobster to try and stretch out some dollars. Truth is, all my music is contrived, but Sammy was always a sucker. I can’t lose that.

 Sammy and I go back far " almost 7 years, ever since Theodore and I met in high school when I still was a preppy f**k who never tried pot and loved Track and Field. 100 meter dashes weren’t in the cards for me after Sammy and I came together; she said it was just “some dumb hobby”, and “our sports teams are too conformist”.

“Get over that herd mentality”, she said at one point when we were pulling from our first bottle of Jack behind the bleachers. I was fourteen. Back then, she loved Newports and brown paper bags, they made her feel like a vagabond and a badass.

I didn’t really pick up the guitar ‘till I met Ted. Ol’ Theo always drummed and made his parents miserable with Lamb of God covers. Still, I never really got good. We would spend most of our time near his window with a fat cone of Blue Dream or OG, or whatever name his dealer made up for us that ran $65 an 8th. Later, we would run with a rougher crew, rails of that dirty Mexican stepped-on coke, but we didn’t last long in that scene.

Those were simpler times, though, and I can’t blame Theo for dropping out of the club scene and going back to his dad’s farm. That lifestyle is something I never imagined, it almost seems noble to me. I probably won’t ever see him again, but maybe that ain’t so bad.

I knocked on Lana’s door with a special three tap code she wouldn’t even recognize. It took a few seconds, but she opened the door and I hurried inside. The air was still " a hasty silence fell over the room and she walked over to the red leather couch and slid down. She lay across its cushions with a seductive gaze, her black nail polish and long legs with stiletto heels all on display for me.
                        “You know I’m crazy about you, you know we’ve had great times.” I said, as I was taking my belt off and walking towards her in the dark, just a low lamp buzzing on the table beside her.

“Listen… I need something from you and Sammy.” Lara told me, as she put her hand low enough to be convincing. I was listening.

“I think… I think that Theo is not in his right mind. He should take the inheritance and sell the house, then stay here in the city, don’t you think?” Lara was working her magic by now, I didn’t say anything, but the look in my eyes as she stopped told her everything she needed to know.

“I think I’ll make it worth my while then…” I slid my hand down her dress, she was soaking already, and I could tell she remembered me perfectly.

I tied her to the bedpost and put myself to work; she always loved whips and doggy style " maybe that’s all I need in a woman. Her moans only made me go slower, I couldn’t stop yet.

It was a great twenty minutes. She immediately rolled over and lit a Buckingham Gold with some fancy golden lion lighter. The cherry cast an orange light over her pale face and high cheekbones.

“That brand is so s**t, feels like a cigarette that burns too quick for real smokers.”

“And do you think you’re a real smoker?” Lana asked, as she pulled up her stockings and let her hair down in all its wild black waves, like snakes with so many little coils and ringlets.

I took out the bong from the nearby cabinet and lit up. We lay on the bed for a while, and talked about Theo and all her hope for him as we passed it back and forth.

Turns out she wants us to loan Theo some cash. Then, I should convince him that his father’s business is worth saving or some bullshit. I’ve never lied to him before. But hell, for Lana, it won’t be a problem. Since Theo refuses to sell the farm out West, we’re supposed to give him 5k start up to persuade him into staying in the city. He can use his father’s inheritance to sell stocks under a new company called Brackner and Simmons. Always hated Brackner, but never really could argue with his private yacht and three sons who go to Yale. All of these people were above my head, and maybe my heart too, but most of all, above my paygrade.

All this business talk tired me, but Lana went on about it for another ten minutes until I pulled her hair and moved her towards me. She gave me a deep kiss like I know she always does; there are some little moves that she’ll always remember. I agreed with her plan, but I wasn’t ready to confront Theo like that yet. I had to know a way to lie to my friend.

Beyond this, I’ll see him in the city, and he won’t even be like me anymore. Every day, I’ll be reminded of what I could be, and the barren bar crawling degenerate I am. Clyde Wilkens… what a name… at least I have Sammy love me for something. I think she doesn’t care about money- not unless she needs another bowl or a fresh six-pack of Corona.  

The truth is there is a rumor going around about Lana being the bad b***h downtown with hardcore film shoots by a couple sleaze bags from the Bronx who are paid by Brackner. I couldn’t bring myself to deny that truth, but then again humans are capable of a Moon landing and electing Clinton. Still, I couldn’t get past the thought of her like that. What was she to me though? Some chick I met forever ago while I was drunk backstage and Theo was too hopped up on E to notice? Something didn’t feel right with her, but neither did it with Sammy. At least with Sammy I felt safe, I felt like the world expected less from me since she did. I could be wrong, but just a thought.

It was raining like hell when I stepped into the dive bar on 98th and Maine, the biggest s**t hole in town where all the meatheads and coke freaks gather. It was quiet this time of day, though, not quite seven, the leaves were turning. The amber and gray shone out somehow beyond the haze of the downpour and the drooping leaves. The air was breaking, you could tell. You could tell autumn would have its way soon.

“Theo! How goes it hombre.” I yelled. The bartender flashed a glance, but vaguely recognized me.

“Look at this old b*****d, still at the grind aren’t you? You need a new album my friend.” Theo said, he was modestly dressed with chino trousers, black trimmed glasses with thick rims, and slicked back blonde hair. He was always a f****n’ nerd.

“Anyway, what should we do on my last night in the city?  I feel like all the broads here know my name.” Theo motioned to some burnt out woman with dark purple shorts and with a head sloppily half shaven. The booths were suffocating, so we moved up to the stools and wiped off the counter ourselves. Cigarette butts and whatever anyone spit up [resembled vodka] was right next door on the counter, but we laid a pint down and proceeded to reminisce.

“Dude! That girl with the Buckingham’s never failed! A shame she moved out West, maybe I’ll see her in Colorado sometime.”

“Oh you’ll see her. Only she’ll look different.” I said. We both laughed for awhile.

“Ain’t that the truth? Well, anyway, we’ve had a great couple years my man.” Theo said, as he slapped me on the shoulder and adjusted his glasses.

“A long couple ones…” “But maybe it won’t feel that way tomorrow.” I said, with a moment’s breath.

There was a brief silence as the bartender stared at the College Football trash buzzing through the T.V. and polishing a glass.

“Just take care of yourself, okay?” I told him, trying to hold back tears. I couldn’t do what Lana asked, this guy was my friend. I don’t know what comes next when he leaves, but I can’t hold him here with these people.

“Yeah, thanks.” He took another sip of his beer and fumbled around with his lighter, I could tell he was a bit nervous.

“So… you and Sammy?” he asked me, trying to hold eye contact, but then looking over at some hot number with pigtails and high heels outside the window.

“Yeah, we’re a thing; it’ll stay that way, minus well right? Im running out of time.” I told him plainly.

“But, what about Lana?” he asked me

“What?” I blurted.

“Lana? My sister?” he said, while lighting another cigarette and pulling out a bag of coke, I could see it just near the worn plaid bar stool that smelled of piss and mold.

I waited for a moment, I tried to look for that hot number he spotted, I tried to look at the bartender and the strung out hippy b***h in the corner.

We stumbled out of the bathroom after doing a few lines and feeling right. It was still early in the night, but I felt alone. I felt blisteringly alone, like a weight on my heart that wouldn’t let up no matter how much I tried to talk to Theo to take my mind off of it. The fact is, everything will be different now and I don’t think I’m ready to leave my cul-de-sac behind. I can’t leave Lana behind, and what’s worse is I can’t bring myself to cry. Not in front of everyone with my jaw numb and my eyes bloodshot.

“So you never said anything about Lana, did you?” Theo said nonchalantly as he lit another cigarette and we left in his obnoxious red corvette as he shook out the rest of the coke onto a cd case and put it on my lap to cut.

“No… No I didn’t Theo, and I need to come clean with you.”

“You and Lana were a thing.”

“Shut the f**k up.” I told him as I shook my head and tried to hold back a grin

“I wish we still were. The fact is I wasn’t in my right mind when I met her, and maybe she wasn’t in hers either. The fact is I don’t know what the f**k I’m saying since my jaw feels fucked.” I said almost under my breath as Theo turned onto a back road and searched around the glove box for another lighter.

“Look, I know things were good for awhile but-“

“Things were fucked, and I don’t know where I’m going Theo.” Again, I feel like crying, but I can’t, and this tension makes me feel soulless. 

“Am I even sad?” I told Theo as I tried to look him in the eye.

“I thought you were with Sammy, okay? And… well I thought you were happy finally after so many years, call me crazy.” Theo said, as his eyes were fixed on mine and not the coke on my lap.

“I loved her.”

“She loved you more.”

“I guess I could never compete.”

“You never tried, okay? There were so many nights she came home to me in tears because of all your doubts and misgivings. You’re just lucky nothing tied you to her.” Theo told me with a straight face and eyes that I couldn’t match. He meant it.

“I’m chained either way.” I told Theo, disappointed that I no longer felt anything about her in this moment. I guess I was good at distractions, even when the truth was right in front of me.

“I never tried, and I’ll spend the rest of my life living with that fact. I wish I slept more often, it’s the only time I have to forget a ghost.” And at that very moment, when these solemn words were spoken and Theo broke eye contact, I realized all around me was just fixtures for a cathartic cadence. I wish this was how it ended, I wish I could be in that car with the coke and the joints in the glove box with Theo lighting another cig. There should be something that makes Theo and I closer before he leaves forever. There should be some heavy emotions in the air and a deep hug and a struggled goodbye, but instead there’s a tired conversation about the past. Regardless, that moment was free of any pain. I was destroying myself on account of the very one who tried to help me, and that never changed. I wish this was how it ended, but after Theo takes that last turn, what lies ahead is my choice. If only I had the strength to make the right ones.


© 2017 jcarlson33



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Added on May 11, 2017
Last Updated on May 11, 2017