My name is Jacob Dimuzio, a young writer living in Chicago's North side Rogers Park neighborhood. Graduated in the Spring 2015 class from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a BFA. Slings coffee to pay the bills.
Scoop/less by Jacob Dimuzio
So the only thing you have to know is, Scoop’s narcoleptic. Also, she’s a chick. Like five nine with brown hair, pretty cute too, if you ask me, but she’s totally crazy. Really, all you got to take away is that Scoop’s crazy. I mean, Scoop’s a narcoleptic.
Actually there’s two things you gotta know: Scoop was the one.
I don’t say that to sound cheesy or ‘klee-shay’, like Scoop used to say. It’s just, it wouldn’t be fair to Scoop if I left it out. Or maybe it’s not fair if I kept it a secret the whole time, which I guess in a way means it’s not fair to Scoop.
Scoop, the one with narcolepsy. Or is it Scoop, the one, with narcolepsy. I don’t know and since Scoop’s off in somewhere, I probably won’t find out.
Because story telling isn’t my thing and nothing I want to try out and never would all of eleven months ago. Two years ago was life like always. Twenty three months ago was life like never before. Two years ago was me sitting down in early morning darkness after every shift, watching the clock for the sun to rise, right on time everyday, and then I would rest my head. Which wasn’t much different than the years and months before that. Scoop told me something I wish I’d heard when I was a child, that for every second you watch turn on a dial, you miss a hummingbird drinking through a straw. Honestly I have no idea where she got some of this stuff she had stored behind her mouth, but every time it opened, something good came out. She must’ve stashed them in her cheeks, like a chipmunk around November.
Do you know anything about narcolepsy?
I know one thing about it, and that’s that Scoop’s got it bad. And what Scoop does is fall asleep. Everywhere. Just: standing on the bus eating a dry-ass muffin—BAM—sleeping. Crumbs everywhere. Missed stop.
It’s pretty severe, doctors won’t let her drive a car, be an astronaut, a deep-water welder. Which is really unfortunate, since Scoop’s blood is mostly gasoline and all she wants to do is drag race on go-carts or sky dive. She’d be perfect a hundred leagues above or below where she’s at now.
Total opposite of me eleven months ago, day and night; Scoop says, says I’m pure vanilla. My name was supposed to be Phil but my father never had the best spelling so I go by Flip. I look like my mother, take after my grandfather. What my Aunt says, apparently granddaddy was a moist tissue in the wind, no backbone to anything, shotgun wedding fella. Not that I think Scoop’s being mean on purpose with that, it’s just she’s got a thing about honesty. If we’re not honest, then there’s the beginning of the end. That’s what she said after telling me I’m vanilla.
The end of what?
God, you’re so vanilla.
Then she laughed and fell asleep. That was the first time I met Scoop. We were at a mutual friend’s house, guy named Johnny who does my job a block over. Oh ya, I work a convenience store, Security Guard, 6 P.M to 3 A.M Wednesday through Sunday. It’s really a liquor store with a shelf for pretzels and chips and the location aint great, stuck between a set of tracks and another set of tracks. Only other thing on the block is another liquor store — that’s where Johnny works. My boss is a big hunk of Eastern Europe, Ardo, and if he likes anything it’s taking stock and straightening labels on the bottles. Johnny’s place is like our bizarr-o world; we sell Hamms, they got PBR kind of thing.
Anyway, Johnny’s kitchen way back when, there’s Scoop with her head against the wall, dead sleep in a wicker chair and me, hearing that laugh over and over again and hoping I didn’t kill her somehow. Johnny grunts and explains her situation.
Where’d you find this chick, Johnny? I grabbed a can from the fridge, carefully edging around Scoop’s relaxed form, not wanting to stir a hair on her.
She’s a regular shoplifter over at the shop, he said, looking over his shoulder at her. She never keeps anything though. I think she likes the thrill.
What does she do?
She stuffs her bra with those little liquor bottles.”
No, I mean for work.
We let her drool for awhile, kicking back cheap beer. While she was out, we might have talked about politics, or sports, or reindeer. I wasn’t thinking about much else but the girl in front of me.
You sick? Scoop asked me when she suddenly came to, snorting loudly and violently in the small air of the kitchen.
No, why? I asked, taken aback.
Johnny laughs, Naw, Scoop, he says, He always look like that.
Still, I ended up making a thing of going to Johnny’s house after I learned Scoop made it a regular thing. He had a dart board so it was easy to spend the days we weren’t working playing 301 and waiting for Scoop to maybe show so we could play 301 while she juggled darts and erratically fell asleep. Not that Johnny was doing any waiting. I’m sure he was using his time more wisely, probably honing his dart game. Shit, he was good. And I would politely and somehow kind of lightly sip my beer.
Dainty, Scoop said one night, you sip like a princess.
That’s the thing, too. I realized that first day we met, Scoop ain’t never gonna be with a guy like me. If I’m vanilla, she’s chocolate, and everyone knows those two flavors can’t mix cause they don’t make nothing new, just watered down versions of themselves, either a little less vanilla or a little less chocolate. And no matter what I am, my father never raised a kid to water down chocolate, you know, like speaking about people.
But things don’t work out how you plan them.
A week later and I go, Hey Scoop, you know I work down the block from Johnny?
At the junkyard? She was reading a thick book labeled Street Carnivals and Chess.
No, no. The other shop, Ardo’s Goods? My fingers wouldn’t stop fudding about on the table.
So if, ya know, you ever want to visit me when you’re visiting Johnny. . .
I don’t visit Johnny, I steal things from his place and he tries to stop me.
(Do not!) Johnny’s voice came from around the corner where he sat on the toilet, door open. Scoop rolled her eyes at the threshold.
Well, whatever you do, if you want to stop in at Ardo’s, I mean, I’m usually not doing anything.
Are you asking me to steal from your work?
Just if you wanted to visit, I guess. Scoop smiled big at me and closed her book.
You’re a nice dude, Flipper. She touched my arm and I wasn’t even mad at the nickname.
If I was a bigger man, or Scoop a littler woman, I’d have kissed the hell out of her right then.
But the next time I was at work, Scoop showed. It was a sunny Wednesday, I remember since it was slow and even all the railway winos had come in to get their afternoon fix. Now they littered the broken sidewalk like crumpled candy wrappers.
Ardo was walking up and down the two aisles we have and muttering.
We are missing three bottles of tequila, Esse, he said to me.
Those punks that rattle around the junkyard, probably, I said, moving off the wall I had been leaning against. You know, the ones those two brothers Ricardo and Junior run with.
I think you’re right, Esse. That stupid little social club.
I think they like the word ‘gang’.
A gang? Them? Ardo snorted. You go back to my country, Ese, and then you’ll see the gangs. What do they call themselves again, Esse?
Hair Trigger Boys, Ardo.
Hair Trigger Boys. What a stupid name, Esse.
Kind of sounds like a boy-band, huh? And Ardo, you’re not even Mexican, why you keep calling me that? What are you, French?
Ukrainian, Esse. But you got to take care of these punks, huh? What do I pay you for, huh?
The bells on the door jangled and in walked Scoop in a summer dress. God I almost fell right down. Ardo, true hound dog he is, shot like a bullet to her.
Hello, darling, lovely girl, what can I do for you, please, call me Ardo, short for something longer. Scoop gave out a little laugh that sounded like perfect wind chimes you only hear out in the country, and she pointed at me.
I’m actually here for Mr. Flip, but it is very nice to meet you Mr. Ardo.
For Flip? Oh, come now darling, you don’t need a young buck like him — inexperienced in love and magic — would you not rather have me? Can you hear my accent? I am foreign, eh! Exciting!
Ardo gave a deep bow and lipped her hand, getting another giggle from Scoop.
Shove it, Ardo, I said.
My dear, dear pardon, Esse! I never meant any harm. You know it’s just an old man’s ramblings. You understand darling, he said, turning back to Scoop. She gave a deep bow, mirroring his actions earlier.
And no harm done, but you must know, Ardo, old men are the very sexiest of men, Scoop said.
Ardo laughed a big bellyful of sound that only people born abroad in hardship can do and walked into the back room.
The shop is all yours, lovebirds! He shouts from behind the door, but Flip! Watch for that social hair club!
Scoop sidled up next to me, Well, hey, she said.
Well, hey, I said back. Scoops hand grabbed the fabric of my uniform and demanded a tour of the store, so off we went. Even when we passed the little bottles of liquor, her hand stayed with me.
Time with Scoop was becoming easier now. One time Johnny was out of town for a family wedding, and me and Scoop spent all day sitting on his stoop cause we had forgotten. It was hot and sticky and the sun was staring us right down and Scoop was staring straight back. I kept telling her, Scoop, you know that’ll make you blind.
So what? My hearing will get better.
What are you going on about, crazy lady?
Lose one sense and the rest are heightened, don’t you know that, Flippy?
You’re making stuff up again. That’s just fairy tale crap.
Hell no I am not, she said, chop-chop syllables like a machine gun, Witchitaw: 1974: Marty Richebey: Lab Tech: loses the entire sense of hearing from a workplace incident where a mislabeled chemical reacted explosively in the routine experiment Mr. Richebey was performing, giving off a tremendous bang. After a recovery period, Mr. Richebey claimed to see sound waves bending the air, and could taste the electric hums that come off of tall power lines. Doctors scanned his brain and were shocked to find his brain region understood as the hearing center was being overrun by the taste and sight regions, like a neuron ground offensive.
A rumbly truck bucked its way down the street.
What in the hell?
That’s all I managed. She smiled though and looked away from the sun finally. Looked at me.
How do you remember that, crazy lady?
I don’t know, growing up narcoleptic people always assume things are too dangerous so they stuff you in a room full of pillows with a book, tell you it’s a good time to just rest, as if resting isn’t something I do six or seven times a day. Like resting will make me not fall asleep based on a whacked-out neurotransmitter. She trailed off and with her shoe scraped a pebble into the stoop.
Scoop, I said as the sun fell below the buildings, I would never stuff you in a room with pillows and make you read.
She laughed at that.
You know what, I said again, Lets us do something fun tonight. Johnny’s either ignoring us or dead so screw him. C’mon kid, I said getting up and looking down the street with my chest out and shoulders back. Let’s go get ours.
If that’s not straight out of a Hollywood movie, right?
That night Scoop drove for the first time and I taught her. We walked over to the fences of the junkyard. I know the night guy, Timmy, since it’s down the block from work. For ten bucks he gave us a gallon of gas and a little hatchback that someone had plowed into, all the doors missing. Scoop loved it. We couldn’t go on the roads. I was too scared and Timmy would’ve knocked me out if something happened.
I started her off with a few pointers and showing her how to hold her feet, how the key turned. She shivered a little when the engine started. I saw it. We started out by driving in the circle of dirt in front of Timmy’s trailer and Scoop getting used to the wheel, then soon she took us into the forest of scrap piles—I showed her the high-beams since one of the regular lights was busted from an impact.
What about the blinkers, Flip? How do those work, she asked. She was looking around the cassette buttons.
We don’t need those, Scoop, were not getting pulled over in here.
I want to really drive! She said, voice cracking like a child. It was such an unexpected and raw sound my hand flew and touched her on the shoulder, just for a second, and then it was back on my own knee. She laughed at that, a sound so much like before, and I did it again, but better this time, kept it there, and told her to clip the little knob on left of the wheel up and down for the blinkers. We rolled long and smooth around the corners, yellow blinkers clicking left and right. I noticed I could feel my blood moving, like the actual pumping, everything thick in a way. She cruised around the piles of scrap in style. I wasn’t even nervous, the city lights by the fences glowed in bursts like trees in an apple orchard, and even when the gallon ran thin and the engine sputtered dead, we didn’t speak or nothing once but let the stars move in.
Hey Flip, Scoop was saying as I walked her home. She had taken my arm with hers and connected them at the elbow while we were walking.
If this is gonna happen, you better at least hold my hand like a gentleman, Mr. Flipper, she said, which, in her defense, before her coming over, I was walking like three yards at the edge of the side walk, edging the curb with my rubber shoes. It was kind of like a game where I would see how long I could balance for without going over.
Hey Flip, she said though, what if one of us in really in a coma, you know, in real life. And this whole world and everything in it is just in their brains; like, what if you’re in a coma and you’ve just dreamed all of me up? What if you wake up, and what if I disappear?
Scoop, I said suddenly afraid of this exact possibility, I don’t think I’m the one in the coma. If anything, you’re the real one and I’m the imagination thing.
She looked at me.
I mean, I don’t know nothing of what you talk about, I said, I couldn’t be the one in a coma cause how could I imagine you saying it if I don’t even know what it is?
I stayed up that night long after Scoop’s form had started dreaming next to me, staring up into the darkness and hoping I wouldn’t wake up somewhere else.
A few days later and I ask Scoop to go out, like a real date with dinner. I figured this would be good, considering the possibility that I now might be in a coma and really dreaming all of this, and dammit, if I’m dreaming I might as well do some stuff. After that night in the yard things went back to normal on concern with me and Scoop and Johnny. He thought it was funny we waited so long on his stoop. But some things had changed, like now Scoop leaned into me if we sat near each other, and other stuff I can’t think of. I waited till Johnny went to piss and thank god Scoop was awake, so I lean back in my chair and say Hey. Next, I meant to say: Scoop maybe we should go to that dinner place that’s got the good pasta and I can pay because I think you’re totally worth paying for, but instead I said: Scoop I’m not working tomorrow night. Wanna get a movie and order a pizza? I remember she looked at me for a second, then asked me my address and told me not to order the pizza. She wanted to cook.
Next day it’s the middle of the afternoon. I’m scrubbing the toothpaste stains off the walls of my bathroom sink. I had no idea the amount of energy it takes to gouge out toothpaste from the inside of your sink. I don’t think I’ve ever had to do it.
I had been cleaning since the night before, just pausing to sleep. So I got the kitchen and the bedroom and finally gathered up the recycling to leave me here with a scrub pad in hand waging war on the paste stains. And in walks Scoop, a whirlwind of frying pans and grocery bags following in her wake.
I come out into the kitchen and was like Hey tiger, you didn’t have to bring all this. I mean was it a lot of trouble?
She was like Did you just call me tiger?
I wiped my pants with my hands but didn’t really dry anything, just made my pants wet.
I helped her unpack the bags, and she told me about a kid that stole her orange on the way to the bus so she chased him down a few blocks with all the pans and bags in tow.
Not like I cared that much about the orange she said. I just thought he looked a little pudgy. Could do with a run. I sounded like the first rehearsal of middle school percussion though.
What if you had fallen asleep while running, cause of, ya know? I asked. Could’ve really hurt yourself, Scoop.
Could’ve really hurt yourself, Scoop, she said back.
Scoop never liked talking about her thing. She never thought of it as bad, even though everyone me included probably told her it was. She said it’s more like her head fills up with helium and everything gets white behind her eyes for a bit. Then she wakes up, usually minutes later.
She only fell asleep once making dinner that night, only it happened while she was leaning over the burner, setting the bottom frilly part of her shirt on fire.
I’ve had worse, she said after, just need a little burn gel from her purse, practically a medikit handbag.
Didn’t matter I almost had a heart attack while she was out, throwing my can of beer at her shirt before getting my head back and sloshing her with water. I definitely let the food burn, but fuck it. Fire was the theme. We got a pizza.
Then there was the Saturday when the ceiling fell on me: You might call this a bad thing, but looking back I don’t know if I would’ve done anything different. It was me and Scoop at my place, something that had been happening more and more since that dinner. Earlier, she told me she was worried on account of all bad things happening in threes. I asked her what she meant. She said, that shirt I burned when I fell asleep? You remember? That was the second of three “incidents” (she air quoted) with fire and my sleeping.
Things have to go in threes? I asked. I told her she was being nuts, overly superstitious. She made me unplug every unused appliance I had in my place.
O.K, I told her, so what was the first incident?
That’s that, I guess.
Then Scoop had been reading, but she’d passed out with her head leaning against the wall. Definitely drooling, ya know, and I’m playing solitaire with real cards when I get a hint of something. It wasn’t anything I could place right away, but it was something to notice. Something that shouldn’t be here. It was familiar, too, which made it worse not knowing.
It was still on that boundary of human sense. Like, once Scoop was telling me about these rods in your eye that are good for seeing in the dark, and about how we can’t see that far in the dark cause we also got cones—which sounds messed up, right—and since we got these cones there isn’t enough room for a lot of rods. If someone holds up a candle at the far end of your vision and steps back, you can’t see it anymore. Unless you get more rods. So there’s this word, Scoop knows it, like ‘absoluted thresholding,’ and it means the smallest amount of something that can be identified by our noses or eyes or whatever.
So that’s where it was. I barely noticed anything out of place, but a caveman part of me was slowing powering up, starting to sound some alarm bells.
I thought I’d smelled smoke. So I start to check the oven, did I turn this on? I check the toaster, nope. But it’s getting more, I don’t know, present—just more there in the room. I start walking towards Scoop, see if I can shake her out of it cause I know something isn’t right.
I’m a few feet from the table and--
I’m on the ground. O.K. I can’t see out of one eye, and, wasn’t I doing something? Cooking? It’s hot, like when the oven’s on. Why am I on the ground? Should I get up?
That’s what my head was like at the time, messy.
I go to get up and I can’t. And it’s so warm. Enough to make it hard to breath, but it’s not bad.
Am I moving? That’s the last I remember.
Turns out the floor of the unit above me collapsed, my ceiling, collapsed onto me. Turns out, that apartment had had an electrical fire from too many plugs being in at once.
And Scoop, Jesus, I would never believe it if it was anyone else, but Scoop woke up to the ceiling falling, pulled me out of a tangled mess of brick and drywall, fireman carried me down eight flights of stairs. There were witnesses, not that I needed them to believe it.
She should be in wars, man.
Or the Red Cross, the way she CPR’ed me to life.
Point is, Scoop should be doing a lot that they don’t let her do.
Since my floor was covered in ceiling and my ceiling was on the floor, my landlord gave me the key to a little shack of a house, an extra property that doesn’t get much love from anyone. I don’t want to call it a miracle, since Scoop tells me that word has a lot of weight to it and it can’t be thrown around all willy nilly, but me coming out of that rubble with only a scar above my eyebrow is pretty impossible. Improbable, Scoop corrects me.
What is a miracle is when I got the keys to that shack, Scoop agreed to move in with me. I think it’s O.K. to say it for that. Now Johnny was coming over to our place, shooting the shit like always, and even got a magnetic dart board for a house—warming present. Things were good, moving along nicely.
I don’t want to say too much about it, but this was that gold moment in my life, you know? The one that everyone talks about when they’re old and nothing’s left but to fade out, the one that meant something. And I think it does. I think it did. I’ve always felt a little like a fixture in life, like a big old bridge, something that’s always there day in and out. When you wake up you know it’s there cause it’s always been. I was there for people and not really for myself, does that make sense? Scoop was the one who lit the dynamite on that one.
I think it was on account of the fire that I started to worry a little more about Scoop. It was a plain and simple improbability that me and Scoop weren’t certifiably dead, not even a broken bone among us both. I felt like it was a failure on me that Scoop had to save me, I mean she was asleep, which isn’t her fault, but I failed because the ceiling fell, which isn’t my fault, but still. I was her guardian at the time.
It started off small. I mean, it was the first time I had lived with a woman for real, so I think I was a little overwhelmed. Which isn’t an excuse, but it started that whenever Scoop fell asleep like she does, I would usually move her to a place where gravity couldn’t affect her too much when she would fall. It was potentially difficult because around this time I was also encountering Scoop’s Face Plants—her word for passing out standing up, usually falling forward. They’re not common, only a few a year. We were in our little kitchen for my first one. It was quick, and it was when Scoop was walking to the table where I was sitting. She was asking me something and stopped, and I heard the rare sound of something graceful hitting the floor. It was like a rock fall but cleaner and very short.
It was a small incident, Scoop told me. She was fine, and did not like how odd I had gotten around her since that first one. I didn’t tell her that sometimes I would have horrible grips of feeling that Scoop was going to Face Plant somewhere dangerous when I wouldn’t be there to help. Like the stove top, or in front of some large and deep hole. So I began to stay close to Scoop, physically, especially when we were standing. Again, not something I was consciously thinking, but almost like how you act different around an unknown dog or cat with sharp teeth.
These measures worked well, and for a few months Scoop put up with me. It was around ten months since we moved in together, and I figured we should celebrate early for being there a year. I surprised Scoop one evening with some champagne and told her our ten-month living in this apartment anniversary is here, which is basically a year. We drank the champagne and I suggested a walk, taking her arm. It was a romantic gesture, for sure, but also had the significance of making sure she wouldn’t fall. We slowly made our way towards Timmy’s junkyard, as I subtly turned us here and there. She wasn’t fooled, telling me at one point that I better not be taking her to work. We stopped outside the roll-up gates of the yard, and I take out the silver key, a thing Timmy had let me borrow after I told him my plan of the almost-year anniversary and gave him fifteen dollars. I rolled back one gate and ushered Scoop in, her eyes wide and her lips just a little open. She asked me how I did this and I tried to wink, blinked, and tilted my head.
Just as Timmy promised, a car and a can of gas lay just within the fence. Scoop came close and we held each other looking at the rusting red. It felt good. I was calm, and I wasn’t thinking about holding Scoop up against a phantom premonition. She felt secure and sure.
We started to drive, me in the passenger seat. This car was different than the first, it’s engine was mean and would burst out speed in quick jetties. The accelerator pushed half way or less got nothing, an inch past half and the car was pumped ten-odd feet. The turn signals were busted up, the spots for the bulbs were projecting wire. It was a rough ride through the lanes. Scoop was desperately trying to maneuver the junk while getting a smooth acceleration. We switched sides and I tried it out. It was like riding a bull. I got us to a fence on the other side of the lot, and Scoop wanted to try a three point turn. We switched, and she put it into reverse and pushed slowly on the accelerator. The car lurched into a pile of tins. She backed up again and repeated.
I was looking out the window when the engine punched, harder than before, a frenzied whine of excitement—and we shot forward, smashing the fence and ripping a seam in the metal. I was screaming and Scoop was screaming and we punctured the seam, metal wire going the length of the car and ripping at us through the shattered windows.
The violence stopped in the form of a thud, and an uprooting snap for a time smaller than one second: a street light was bent badly, the fence was bent down the way very badly. A man stood on the opposite sidewalk. His eyes were wide, I could tell even from that far, and his mouth hung open like an unused puppet. Then he looked around and yelled something, running to the houses far down the block.
The car was still on. I looked at Scoop. She was unconscious and looked crumpled. I pulled her close and wrenched myself onto the hood, broken glass like security barbs. I slowly took her out. She was breathing. I was on the sidewalk leaning over her.
The police came, and the ambulance, and Scoop was awake but in pain, telling me I cried too much on her face. We were actually O.K. Scoop had to go to the hospital to be watched for a possible concussion. They said I had no physiological reactions that originate from trauma, so I was free to go after they patched up a few leaky spots on my arms and face. I talked to the officers, and told them I was driving, and if they were going to charge anyone with the damages or action it should be me. They asked me if the car was street legal, but that must have been a formality, cause they looked at it and laughed before I could answer. We didn’t have a city sticker, muffler, or license plate. They asked me what happened. I said the engine was jumpy and I hit the accelerator too hard. They asked me what we were doing, anyway. Said I was helping out my buddy Timmy by moving a few clunkers to the front gate for pickup. Asked me where Timmy was. Told them out of town, I think.
I went to the hospital but they wouldn’t let me see Scoop till visiting hours, so I sat outside on the bench till I could tell her. Time went quickly. I was thinking of how we ended up here. What had happened to the car? Was it one of her episodes? How could I have stopped it?
She was up in a bed through a set of long hallways, and she was reading. She had a nightgown of the paper type and set about straightening it with flat slides of her palm as she told me to give her a kiss, the wounded and brave soul she was. Her words.
She was going to be O.K. A big pile of air released from my throat when the night nurse told me. It wasn’t long that I brought up what I told the police. Her face kind of dropped slack and she felt farther away, even though I was still sitting against her thigh on the bed. Like she had become denser.
I didn’t want you to get in trouble, Scoop.
I don’t want you to get in trouble for something that I did, Flip, she said, not louder, but more forceful.
It was my fault, I told her. I want to do this for you. The room was blanketed in hot sunlight and the skin on my arms was baking, throbbing. She didn’t say anything for a moment.
I don’t want you to do anything for me, she forced out, loud, startling and quick.
Scoop you can’t even drive because of your narcolepsy! I said, getting oddly affected by defending this. She picked up her magazine. Silence sat like a third wheel.
I’m just trying to look out for you, Scoop, I said, standing up. It’s not my fault you have this condition, and I’m sorry I have to take precautions about it--
Precautions? She cut me off. Her eyes were full of hot sand and I couldn’t look at her. I knew what I had said. I knew it was how I felt. I just nodded.
What. Precautions. She asked. I felt like I was suddenly stumbling but I wasn’t moving.
It’s nothing, Scoop, that’s not what I meant to say.
Scoop, it’s just, it’s nothing—O.K?
I just care about you! I yelled, the force suddenly erupting from my chest out of my mouth. I just don’t want you to get hurt—to hurt yourself, to fall! It’s not easy for me Scoop. You don’t care and I can’t keep worrying if I will come home one day and find you drowned in a bathtub! I can’t Scoop, I can’t. If I could stick you in a room full of pillows and leave you there every time I’m not around I would--
And I stopped. The room buzzed in the heat, but I had goose bumps and I felt too tall. Scoop had silent rivers moving down her cheeks. It reminded me of cartoons.
She told me to leave. I did. I know why.
I came later that night to find out she had been discharged. I went home and stayed there.
She came by the house a day later. She looked like she was somehow a new thing I hadn’t seen yet. She stayed on the threshold for a moment, leaning back like a nervous snake. I moved into the hall and she leaned into me. It was a moment I would like to forget. She was going to get her stuff, and I told her I would help her. She agreed and I helped, both of us working as a desperation to be close, trying to graze elbows or knuckles on accident. It wasn’t what it had been.
People tell me I should’ve fought; they like to say it while puffing up their chest. I will nod until they mention something vague. They never understand this part of the story, and I take a lot of flak for it. I have stopped telling this story. It’s not the flak; it’s the not understanding. I’m sure it’s something in my story telling. If Scoop was here telling it instead, they would get it. But I never explain it either. I just take a sip of my beer and get up, walking towards my coat, and tell them, Boys, you learn from my mistakes: you never water down chocolate and you never repair what can’t be fixed.
Now it’s their turn to nod soberly, stare at their shoes and pretend that what I’ve told them means something.