I take a few more Xanax before bed. It helps slow my thoughts down. I’m not really anxious but I don’t know how to process what Zed’s just told me. I look across at her and she’s already asleep. Zed’s in for the chemo. She can’t afford a private hospital so she has to spend some time in Wexford General every few months. Tests and stuff. My nan died of cancer when dad was in jail. She just kept getting weaker and weaker. Eventually she fell into a three day sleep and didn’t wake up.
Ma came up to Dublin after the guards rang her. They had found me throwing arm-fulls of fag butts into the canal. They said technically I hadn’t really broken any laws. They also said that they hadn’t checked me for drugs. I think that was guard for “were letting him off with this one.” Whatever it was ma pretty much copped I had been out of my face the night before. The only thing she said was “thank God this didn’t happen in Wexford”. After that no one said anything. That kind of suited me. I could feel a coldness on my neck and every few minutes I’d get this little pang of anxiety. I wasn’t really in a talky mood. At one point I turned around and saw a tear sliding down the corner of her eye. She went into this story from when I was a kid. I came home from school one day crying. Apparently the teacher had been talking about how we were put together, biology wise. I came home balling and saying that we were only flesh and bone. Ma hugged me and said “what do you feel when you hug mammy?” I sniffed and said happy.
“Can you see happy?”
“No but I can feel it.”
“Exactly.” She pointed at my stomach. “There’s lots of things in there you can’t see. It’s magic.”
We reminisced about me and Jess being kids for about two hours. For the first time that day I felt something other than scared. I can’t imagine how Zed feels. To know that soon you’re going to find out if there really is any magic in you. Or if it’s all just flesh and bone.
In the morning the doctor tells me I can go. It’s really early. Like seven or eight. No one else is awake yet. Within about two hours I’m packed up and ma’s outside to collect me. Zed’s still asleep. I walk over to her and shake her by the shoulder. She opens her eyes and looks at me. Angry glare that is. I can hear her tongue peel off the roof of her mouth.
“Wha?!” It sounds like one of those zombies from Dawn of the Dead.
“I’m going. Home like.”
Zed turns over and closes her eyes. That’s it. I thought it might be a bit more sentimental. Especially after what Zed told me last night. I mean if you were watching that part in Terminator 2, where Arnold Scwartzennegar goes into the lava with his thumb up, and John Connor had just gone “Yeah. Bye” that would have been a major anti-climax. I walk downstairs with my bags and stuff. I’m pretty pissed off. I thought we had a click or something. Like Thelma and Louise. No wait they were both girls. I don’t even know who Bonny and Clyde are so not them. Batman and Robin? No. I don’t know.
I open the back door to ma’s Lexus and throw my stuff in. I get into the front seat and sit down. Me and ma blab for a bit, nothing too important. Just how my guinea pig is. Roger and C.A. are fast becoming friends apparently. She tells me dad won’t be home until tomorrow. He’s out on business somewhere. Yeah I know, you’d think tax evasion or whatever would pretty much guarantee a break from the business world. Not my dad, he’s cunning like a fox. People tend to forget fox’s eat all the hens when they use that phrase. We pull into the drive. I’m taking my bags out of the car and thinking about how blasé Zed was about me leaving. Then I remember I’m outside. At first I kind of go “oh yeah, I should be freaking out”. Nothing happens for a minute then I feel the fear creep in. I’m inside before it gets too intense. It makes me think I might be less broken or something.
My room is exactly how it was before I left for college. There’s still a Batman poster on the wall and three cardboard boxes full of comics by my bed. Ma’s put the almost-stolen 32” HDTV on a rack on the wall. She’s even arranged some of my old toys around the laptop on my desk. I look around for C.A.’s cage. It’s not in my room. Downstairs ma is cutting up some grapefruit.
“Do you still like sugar on yours Alex?”
She puts half the grapefruit into a bowl and sprinkles some sugar over the top. I go to take it off her but she says we should eat in the conservatory. It’s not really sunny but for this time of year I suppose it’s a good day. C.A.’s cage is in the conservatory. The pig comes up to the cage bars. I open the clips on the side and take her out. C.A.’s dressed like a pirate. I’m not hallucinating or anything.
“What’s the story with this?”
“Oh it’s lovely isn’t it? Roger and I decided we’d make little Harry here a costume. Jessica showed him that film with Johnny Depp and now he’s going through a pirate phase.”
“Well I didn’t know what his name was. Harry’s a nice name. What do you call him?”
“Captain Anxious?” Ma laughs a bit.
“Weird name eh.”
“It’s not that. It’s just such an Alex name isn’t it.”
“An Alex name? How’d you mean.”
“Well you called the dog Ultimate Bear, the cat was the Clawed Avenger and remember your fish?”
“My old goldfish, what did I call him again?”
We both laugh. I’m twenty now and still naming animals like they’re superheros. I may as well make the most of it. If I ever have a kid I’ll have to name him something boring like John. I won’t though because that’s my dad’s name. Maybe I’ll call him something cool like Ezekial. He’ll either get bullied badly or turn out to be really popular. If he gets raised in Wexford it’ll probably be the first one.
“Hey this isn’t funny man. I look like the most retarded pirate ever!” C.A. chirps.
“Back to being a guy then are we?”
“Sorry?” Mam says.
Living by myself for the last few months has made me forget it’s a little short of normal to talk to a guinea pig.
“Oh, nothing just thinking out loud.”
“You’re all right aren’t you?”
“Yeah I’m fine.”
I blamed almost everything on the break up. Dropping college, moving home and all the general misery. Problem is mother’s are smart. Half the time they know what you’re thinking before you do. Ma knows that ever since I took drugs and got arrested I haven’t been the same. She was really bringing on the heat before I moved out. Saying she was going to ring a councillor, asking why I never went outside. Luckily, well depending on your definition, things between me and dad were strained as they always are. Meant I got to move out to my own place in Cromwell’s Fort. Ma says she paid the rent but dad pays for everything. That’s generally how he handles a problem: fires a shit load of money at it and pretends it’s not there.
“Are you busy on Friday?”
“Friday? I don’t think so. Nothing planned anyway” I reply.
“Why is that good ma?”
“Mam. I’d like you to see a friend of mine. A psychologist or a psychiatrist. Some sort of councillor anyway.”
Ma cuts in.
“One session. That’s all Alex. See how you feel afterwards. Please.”
Maybe Zed was right, if I’m going loony tunes there’s no point fighting it. At least with this I can go one way or the other. Poor ma, god only knows how she’ll explain it to the neighbours if it turns out I’m going mental. I imagine her telling everyone I’ve gone travelling for a few months. “Alex got a job in Australia” will be code for “Alex responded well to electroshock therapy”.
“Okay. One session.”
Ma takes the grapefruit off me and heads to the kitchen. C.A. looks up at me.
“It’ll be fine Al. Even if you do go to the mental it’s not like they won’t let you back out.”
“How do you know C.A.?”
“Too many budget cuts this year.”
The first rain drop hits the see through roof. The others follow. It’s like heating pop corn or something. I hear ma turn on the television. Some celebrity is plugging their new film. Some new superhero flick. Green Arrow. They bullshit on about how they’ve always been fans of the comic book. Then they forget that Green Arrow’s real name is ‘Ollie’ Queen and refer to him as ‘Larry’. The rain gets harder.
I hear a key in the door. It shuffles around and eventually catches the lock. The footsteps give him away. Heavy and direct.
“I didn’t think he was back until tomorrow?” C.A. chirps.
Dad walks into the conservatory. He looks at me. He has one of those cardboard take away coffee cups. He takes a sip from it and keeps his eyes on me. I remember some nature show about alpha male gorillas. If you break eye contact they’ll attack. He takes the cup from his lips.
“How are you?”
I’m not sure if ma even knows he’s here. He doesn’t go into her anyway. His feet come down heavy on the stairs. I wait for C.A. to chirp or something but he stays quiet. I drop another Xanax.