If he’d been allowed the opportunity to have viewed the table from an aerial view, Patrick Murphy was thinking to himself as he picked tufts of grass from the lawn, it would have looked better. If he’d seen the arrangement of cups from an aerial, he was thinking, running the cold blades of grass, satiny though damp through his fingers, feeling the dirt clumps fall over his socks, the little roots, like knotted threads stubbornly clinging to the crumbling soil, he would have found in the faces of the cups, the circles of their open tops, a kind of simple symmetry of arrangement, the same order, the same honey and burnt sienna variance of hue in their coloring he’d seen in that great canvas, half the size of a wall panel, that past November at the Whitney. From an aerial perspective, he was telling himself as he brushed the produced dirt off his black Brooks Brother’s socks, it would have been a simple, postmodernist and geometric-heavy image, an ordering of circles varying from that honey to that burnt sienna in a thick and remarkable depth of appearance within the circles. From the ground, he thought, it looks like shit, and so he stood, cuffing with a tired and bored hand the last of the dirt from the black-cotton clad length of his right foot, reaching to take from the fringe of the table’s arrangement the flimsy Red Solo Cup of a half-poured beer.
It was a shitty beer and as he stood to drink it, the side of his flank leaning somewhat against the table, he thought how boring a night it was, how irritated he had been that one of Terry’s soccer friends had, just friendlily, just generously enough to have merited rebuke in a refusal, suggested such a stupid turn for the course of this night, one of his lasts in Boston before he was to go back to college, back to school, one of the last free nights he’d have a long while so many good bars, the Row, the little metal dock up in Cambridge where one could watch the waves rock against the rust on the white-painted metal barrier before the basin squandered by this soccer friend’s bourbon-lubricated suggestions, that unspoken authority his staying at Terry’s gave his cousin over the application of his time, his car keychain.
The house was a strangely Spanish looking house, an oatmeal-colored monstrosity with a great rectangular front exterior and a gravel lawn out front in which the gravel was not the little black gravel, as is that in the front lawns of houses which cannot afford to do any better, which is small and pebbly and like rice bits mashed together under the pressure of a fork-back, but was a large gravel, a combination of two shades of gray, a pasty pale gray, almost pinkish, and a clean light gray, all of which were jagged in parts and all of which ran in two great sweeps of rectangles outside that circular drive out front, in which was ensconced an imitation Barcelona fountain, on whose flat, deep burnt sienna tile the wheels of Patrick’s BMW-X5 had experienced some difficulty with in his having parked out front.
There was an expansiveness, an unfinished or in-progress effect contained in the house’s interior indicative of a construction site or yard-sale. In the living room, which was concrete-walled room empty save a gray-wood liquor cabinet, furniture which took up less than a third of the room’s space, was one of those great acorn colored couches, the suede of which have the same specific hue as those Gucci envelope clutches, as those thick suede jackets worn always by dark haired models with pulled back hair and oversized tortoise sunglasses and slumped posture against wood walls in the WSJ spreads, which look almost uncaring, even unwelcoming to one’s sitting, as though just as contented, in their superior geometric stretch of suede, to be free of company as to receive it and which appear effectively austere.
Over it was cast only the one brave shrug of a jacket, this the flat, primary red firetrucks wear in children’s books, two singular suede pillows, the same austere and acorn hue, each commanding a triangle of the couch’s respective ends, the sliver of the edge of a hunter green and gloss-covered coffee table book which had dared to deviate from its respective quadrant and which gleamed some, in the room’s dull light, the gloss of its cover translucent and gleaming like the dark eyes of a child in comprehension of and in strange satisfaction derived of his own disobedience.
The house was fronted with its own roundabout, a pool, two tennis courts—what need any singular family would need for two tennis courts, Patrick knew not—a strange kind of low bed, outfitted completely in white sheeting, in the upstairs rooms, the rumor of the possession of a Paul Klee titled ‘Struck from the List,’ the wall, as understood, opposite of which was clay. Despite the expanse of the houses rooms, the first floor, excluding the living room—which had, for some unknown reason, maintained a museum-like lack of disruption—was chock full of people, as houses in Boston get during that weekend, Thanksgiving weekend, when undergraduates return, broke and hungry, to their old haunts and habits, when fostered is the environment in which crossing of a room is an effort one endeavors only in extreme thirst or necessity for bathroom. There was a pervading sense of struggle or exhaustion coupled with a kind of meaningless inertia away from all but the more reckless of action. It was the impression so strongly of Ralph Lauren Black beside Patrick which had pushed him finally, despite the difficulty of such movement, past the great mass of people to the welcome quiet of the backyard.
Through the window there was visible a painting the exact hue Patrick had seen an hour earlier in a bit of something in the sink basin, this the apathetic and flat yellow-orange of artificially-flavored mandarin pieces. Patrick, beginning, after half an hour, to get cold through the thin cotton of his long-sleeved t-shirt, coupled with his registering of one of his cousin Terry’s old soccer friends walking with his wallet held with the clamp of his hand, his old-boy’s-school arrogance across the lawn, retreated with a box of sesame crackers, his beer robbed the ping pong table, to dodge the interaction, to doge the cold to disturb the suede of that austere and acorn colored couch.
When a man came in, five minutes later, ducking his head curiously, hesitantly, in that action a man looking for a bathroom always seems to make, Patrick was too preoccupied in his own thinking, his own grieving, to so much as register his presence. The clumps of dirt he had taken to dislodging had reminded him of Rucker; his brother’s death had returned to him, a phenomenon he had found was prone, as hunger was, to recur when not properly repressed through satiation. He had not been, sitting outside in the cold, dark yard, adequately distracted; so it had returned.
It has been a cold feeling, this recurrent reminder of Rucker’s death, young, premature, unfair, a cold feeling in one’s shoulder’s, one’s ribs, in the alarming recognition that even the clasping of the hands, the clamping of one’s fingers around one’s wrist, an attempt at sturdiness, was a recognition of one’s bones, of one’s foundation being devised upon nothing. This coldness had made him feel numb, had given him an overwhelming desire to be next to the austere and acorn-colored suede of the couch, the nylon of that shrugged firetruck red puffer-coat, both these so clearly appendages of here and not there, whatever that there consisted of, that there where Rucker was, that realm which Patrick understood not outside of his thinking it a middle ground between the trenches he had seen in the old movies and the pain he had felt one time in having, by slipped Swiss Army knife, cut a bit of the freckled skin off his hand in the place of a spear he and Rucker had been making, in play.
These things were comforts, these couches, these jackets, Patrick wanted proximity to, so arrogant, so sure. These things coaxed him with that old lie, seemed evidence of the soundness of that theory which said there must be means in this world for such business, such uncommon escape, for the very construction of these things, this suede, so austere, so blunt and yet soft, that nylon, firetruck-colored, which repelled rain and sleet and snow; such things were wonders. He liked these things. He was fundamentally and tacitly comforted by the mere presence of these things, as one is comforted by the mere company of an old friend, by the conviction one is given in that camaraderie, for these things thought as he did, for these things, in a fundamental and unspoken though powerful allegiance, affirmed and backed his theory.
These things were well-made, were investments as was Lucy Wilmot’s Yale keychain, leather, embroidered in baby blue and white by hand, his father’s Wimbledon cap of hunter green and purple and the family box; he had conviction in these things and thus had conviction in his theory through them; there was a strength in these things, a wholesome, concrete quality which dissuaded so much as the suggestion that these things, the stuff of life, might ever change hands at all. The stupid gray embroidery beside the elastic of the wrist, a thin elastic, the same color as the jacket’s nylon, which said, in block letters ‘H2NO,’ itself, so stupid, so seemingly small, was an affirmation to Patrick of fact in what he found to be, by the minute, his more and more incredulous theory.
Yes, the stupid embroidery on the firetruck-colored Patagonia jacket told him such could not be true, that he, like his brother, would have to die, for the mere thoroughness of construction of its nylon thrashed against as much, for the mere block letters of its clever embroidery affirmed what is, if sometimes stupid and misguided, man’s dominant capability of mind, of science, the very color, this dye man had made and manufactured to mimic: firetruck, some boyhood pleasure, some dumb nostalgia, seemed to guard, must guard its possessor against so cheap a subjugation as impermanence.
But he knew his theory flawed, Patrick Murphy thought as he sat on the edge of that austere and acorn-colored suede couch, however assuredly these things affirmed his theory, he thought, he knew it flawed, for he had seen firsthand the truth, had seen firsthand the pain, had understood, that damp and gray fall that his own nose, that thin bit of bone, his one and his last handsome feature, which he knew singlehandedly responsible for the often-repeated comment on his beauty, his likeness to a certain actor, might be broken, jammed, mangled beyond recognition, to the world’s lack of notice. He knew his theory flawed because in sitting there, on the austere and acorn-colored suede couch he remembered what had been his frank and harrowing comprehension, holding the thin bridge of it that fall, sitting in that ugly hospital chair beside Rucker’s bed: his nose could be snapped. The whole thing, he had comprehended, would be as facile as that business of snapping twigs which he partook in boyhood. How submissively those twigs, those miniscule rectangular and gnarled bits had snapped; so his nose would break, he had thought. So the world, as the forest had in his boyhood to its respective tragedy, would take, he told himself, little note.
Yes, Patrick told himself, sitting there, indignant, terrified, then only somewhat comforted by the austere and acorn-colored suede against which he sat, little note; when Rucker had died St. Andrews had done no more and no less than what it had found respectably necessary, plan a vigil wherein candles were held safely in white Styrofoam cups, knit a scrap of condolence in the same general tone of its digital bulletin and in the same uncaring white text on the same uncaring burgundy backdrop.
* * *
12:00 PM found Patrick waiting for his cousin Terry to finish gathering the blue-jersey wearing, dark haired and arrogant image of himself from the estate mirror in the little bathroom off the hall. He was lying down then, on his side, with his knees inward and the wide bowls of his hands hung loosely over them; he was exerting so little means of keeping his body from falling off the couch that he found against the dark-haired nape of his neck the suede side of one of the cushions.
He had his eyes closed desperately, exaggeratedly, as one does in dodging the sting of shampoo. Behind them was the image of cold cranberries, the residue they made across a gold plate, the image like that depicted on a folded room divider, some implacable appendage of his youth. Behind them were the great boulders of Parker rolls, the great fallen logs of two cinnamon sticks removed his drink, an untouched lake of iridescent brown gravy. Behind them was the flat dull hue of these gold plates which had supposed to have been a big deal, which Rucker had found pretentious and his of which he had dropped in protest, so as to avoid using it for Thanksgiving, a result he had been denied by their father’s anger over the incident, so that he replaced his own plate with the simple white one Rucker had desired so that across from Rucker at Thanksgiving dinner had been the crude reminder of his father’s anger, his own effort and failure at rebellion, so that he averted his eyes from the place across from his own as a soldier might avert his eyes the chestnut or chocolate lace-up boots which seemed, following the unwanted headlines, results in the news, a concrete and intended snub.
It had been a dull and forced week with the family, a week all understood, but spoke not of as a kind of anticipatory wake. There had been mandatory Scrabble games, a Catholic church service mumbled through, a viewing of a dark and sympathetic Irish film one of the cousins, a junior at Georgetown, had selected in a pathetic effort at willing a familial camaraderie, a common ground to bridge, between these dark haired people and their respective academic and leather-related successes, between this son’s fellowship and that cousin’s purchase, in rural Vermont, of a stain-glassed and brick home kept a third closed up all year, a half closed up in the winter for sake of the heat, four miles from any civilization but their own, the husk of a boarding school, where there was little points fit for connection beyond a unanimous baseball affiliation—being, of course, the Red Socks—and a common name, both of which commonalities by many year’s conversational use strained at the seams.
It was a week, in these topics thoroughly strained; it was a week fleshed out with a fight over the consistency of the cucumber bits in the stuffing, the brief and cruel lashing out of one uncle, in having been denied, consecutively, a third bourbon tumbler and his tacky suggestion, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, that the family partake in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ whose anger and indignation had landed not rightfully on his cousin Edward, who’d keyed him in to the tackiness of such suggestion, but which had slipped, as though a knife in err, inflicting instead Edward’s daughter, whose academic career he had called mediocre, inadequate.
It was cold. The heater had broken and everyone wore sweaters pulled from beneath fake wood cabinets, Paddington the Bear books, little knit white baby booties, another kind of booties, these hunter green, near-black padded down things, nylon boots like squares robbed a comforter tied up, they’d had for the spoiled black Labrador retriever, a slim, obsidian-coated beast named Seal whose paws had been proclaimed incapable of traversing the hardwood floors in the house at Westchester, for their coldness, their 1700s loyalty to the cold and against modern heating, without such so-called ‘ped-pals.’
The failed attempt at a fire was evident in the hearth, where the logs were burnt around their exteriors but cold inside and where the obnoxious yellow of a Duraflame cardboard box sat tauntingly with its flaps half-open in indication of such.
“Nathan,” Patrick’s mother had said, whipping her cloth napkin on his father’s thigh, an encounter which was perceived by and which bothered the quiet presence of the Labrador beneath the table. She wore the same restraint she, along with the rest of the family had been keeping up for days, an uncomfortable fumbling, a cautious process of feeling and searching, as though running along one’s calve hesitant points of pressure so as to locate the browned apple pliability of a bruise, shifting around the dirt wherein has been stated the location of a landmine.
“I was just commenting that—”
“I know what you were commenting. He’s fine. His eating’s fine.”
“Alright,” his father said, this an incendiary, strung-out phrase accompanied with his nose downturned to his drink, his indignance tucked in his chin so that the dark grey wool of his sweater, almost black, was strained against the side of the bourbon tumbler.
It was a solemn scene. The tension, the unspoken comprehension of what was and what could not be said was palpable. There had been an acute pain, to it, he thought, how Rucker had come from St. Andrews, from England without a suitcase for it had seemed trivial to move these things from here to there, how he’d been instructed to buy Rucker the tennis racket press he’d wanted, this overpriced Wilson one, and had given it to him early, given it to him at dinner in a brotherly sacrifice of funds, of effort for, an early Christmas present whose motive no one had asked but which everyone had been known. There was a sadness to that simple fact, Patrick thought, how everyone had known so fundamentally, so intimately this unspoken fact, this unfairness or worldly attrition inflicted one of their own, that to the entirety of the Murphy table there had been no flinch, no cough, no hair tucked behind ears or twisted pearl earring, conveniently-timed swig from tumbler, not so much as a glance noting such disorder. It was a numbing sadness, Patrick thought, a unanimous sadness to which each individual was inexplicably caught up—his own brother, his own cousin, how own son, Rucker, the dark-haired recluse, the English fanatic, asking bartenders for pens they’d said, to write things on napkins so they wouldn’t be lost when he thought of them without means to record them, a drawer full of big hotel pens, an outrageously wide mouth, the boyhood habit of pulling up Times New Roman, faded images of the president, the NYT opinion section in the faded tomato rock of Silly Putty, would not go on forever, by that mere tenacity of will, would not, for such time as another month, so short, shorter than a fraction of his average track season, the time it took him to write those lovely strings of editorials in the St. Andrews Examiner, would not live.
* * *
The rest Patrick remembered in the car: a plane ride to San Francisco early the next morning, strawberry frozen yogurt with nubs of box-shaped cookie dough pits, coated in dust, a United Airlines catalog robbed the seat-back pouch, a rushed lunch, consisting mostly of white rice, of what was supposed to have been memorable Asian food, a drive through farmland and stretch of highway which had lasted two additional hours after the plane ride, which everyone had muscled through, he believed, only for the rations of Kettle Brand salt and vinegary chips, the six-pack of Diet Coke the little bottles gleaming, in the hard scrutiny of the sun through the windows, the color of tradition-warried leather, the bottles affixed with the kind of plastic 4th grade classes do ‘Don’t Kill the Penguins’ social-action projects.
When they arrived at the hotel it was foggy. He and Rucker, given a momentary hour or so of freedom to acquaint themselves with the grounds, were soon ensconced, head-sized peanut-butter cookie, two lattes for which they had been overcharged in hand, in a pair of Adirondack chairs on the lodge’s back esplanade the angle of whose backs extended much too vertically.
“It’s nice here,” Rucker had said, who for the entirety of the car ride had been quiet, not speaking, looking out over where his mouth was more often than not held around the opening of the coke bottle, drinking or biting, in nervousness or boredom, the plastic of the top, looking out at the lettuce fields, the fenced and gray army barracks, the way the land curved back, as though stooping deferentially, from the black and gray concrete of the highway.
“Yeah,” Patrick said.
Rucker broke off half the head-sized peanut butter cookie and handed the other half to his brother, not speaking.
“It’s nice,” Patrick said.
Patrick had found this sad, too, his usually interested, engaged, fast-talking brother quiet, there a numbness, a distracted quality in his eyes as though caught up in some task or burden and therefore unavailable, shielded from those scenes and images laid then before him. He hadn’t had, as he usually had on such excursions, on all excursions, the yellow legal pad he kept at will of his knee, his scribbled impressions.
He had found the same thing in the car on the ride there, though not himself attuned to the possibilities of their surroundings as subject for writing, which was Rucker’s capability, his singular grace, he had been around and had listened to his brother, had lived in proximity to his brother’s sympathies long enough to have a second-hand appreciation, a second-hand understanding of what would translate well to editorial column or magazine story or anthology ode, so that he found in the strange juxtaposition of what he had seen on the road, the overabundant fertility of the lettuce crop, in tight rows like those knit into wool, against the solemn and barren nature of the closed-up barracks the substance for a sad and cinematic poem which Patrick knew Rucker had chosen to neglect, which would, in his neglect, go a wonder unrealized.
Then it was quiet for a minute. A group went by with a man in a nylon jacket, the end of a white wool blanket herding, behind him, a bit of dirt from the porch. It was foggy and cold and the air was cold. Through the windows gleamed the heat of inside, distinct and clear against the fog, the gray and cold confusion of outdoors, the enormous charcoal-dirtied basins of stone fireplaces, leather couches, a reception desk behind which were hung images of dark haired people with skis, on beaches, caught up in the more wholesome of life’s varieties, Mission-style lights covered with the kind of dull yellow glass which is like parchment paper pulled in triangles, a crowd of guests over a green felt pool table on whose game had been introduced a wager.
The peanut-butter cookie was hard around the edges, supple in the center. As Patrick broke a piece off his piece, he experienced a strange juxtaposition of those two feelings, pliable and hard, simple and difficulty, thought what is hard to say, what is easy to say, that there is the undertone of what is hard in even the easiest comments, the simplest connections of thoughts and sounds. He chose not to talk.
“Gibb wrote me,” Rucker said, looking out past Patrick at where a group of cypress trees hung suspended from the fog.
“Yeah. A letter on a card. Hallmark card. Ugly as hell.”
“Yeah?” said Patrick. He could say no more. He couldn’t bear to. There was a fragility he understood in the situation, understood as, since the diagnosis, a permanent appendage his brother’s company, his brother’s conversation, so that he knew better that what seemed a sturdy, stable topic, this favorite, this brilliant and overachieving and scientific cousin, with whom they had used to partake in flag football, with whom they had had that one game on the Columbia quad and afterward French fries at a sketchy little diner, like the rest of that which touched, which was connected then to Rucker, was liable to, prone to fundamental and harrowing fracture.
“A DVD of that play we went to that one time, when he was still in high school. That Peanut’s show where he thought he looked good. Thought his acting was okay but that he looked good in that white wool turtleneck they’d outfitted him in. Thought it’d amuse me,” Rucker paused, looking at his piece of the peanut-butter cookie which was slightly smaller than that he had handed Patrick. “Bring me back somewhere.”
“Right,” said Patrick.
“Said something in the card about having taken us there. Yellow-frosted cupcakes with black zigzags across them like Charlie Brown’s sweater. A cold night. Said little else. Terse. Unlike him,” he said.
At this Patrick was quiet.
Rucker, maybe aware of this lack of sound, spoke to fill the space it had left. “Ugliest card you’ve ever seen. Amoxicillin pink. Leather candle like those ones at that store in Northampton. Orangish-brown glass, you know. Musky smell.” He was looking out at the cypress trees, the fog, eating his cookie.
When they were again folded back into their parents supervision, that strange authority and jurisdiction lent their parents which had resulted of the Avis car rental having capped the youngest age of its renter at 25, they sat in the car in a removed state, a common ground between their boyhood to which they had been situationally returned and what was undoubtedly their adulthood, this latter truth evident in the bearish largeness of their hands, talk of wine in a box, an exchange of mild innuendo, the watch Rucker had inherited, for his graduation, from their father, hanging only somewhat too big on his full-grown wrist.
At the mission they parked in the parking lot, which was on a slant, and when Rucker got out of the car he closed the door so softly that he had to be asked to close it again. He was eating a roll he’d nabbed from the conference center cafeteria and holding, with the clamp of his left hand, a lukewarm cup of coffee.
They went first through the body of the church, Patrick remembered, having stopped out front before venturing inside at the great sandstone façade, the great basilica front which opened on a rectangular dirt courtyard in which sat little puffs of plants, some browned, and against whose side could be found the stone path to the back cemetery, where graves were assembled in haphazard, abalone-decorated rows. There was a window cut into the sandstone façade the shape of a star with faceted stone cut inward which his father had dog-eared and read from a highlighted guide book about, which was supposed to have been situated purposefully on such coordinates so that in the circumstances of solar and lunar eclipses, the sun would frame the altar in such a way which had given the Indian converts an overwhelming conviction in the religion imposed upon them.
It was that Rucker had stood the whole morning outside the window that Patrick had remembered that day, that he had paused before the great sandstone façade of the church, that, even when the rest of them had gone on to look at the church’s interior, the abalone piled over the piles of the graves, he had stayed, which had prompted Patrick, which had recalled to him that weekend with his brother as he had sat on the austere and acorn-colored couch, as he sat in his BMW-X5 driving back to Terry’s.
When he had returned from the cemetery, he had found Rucker standing with his dark-haired head titled back at the cathedral.
“Down the river was Notre Dame,” Rucker said, with his hands pushed downward, his fists little weights in his pockets, “squatting against the night sky.”
“What?” Patrick had remembered saying.
“Hemingway,” said Rucker. “Down the river was Notre dame squatting against the night sky.”
“Oh,” Patrick had said. “That’s a nice sentence.”
Rucker still had his fists weighted, strained in his pockets. “That’s how they’d trick the Indians,” he said, tiredly, sadly. “By having the window situated to capture the light.”
Patrick had left his brother there, because there had been something in his posture which asked for solitude, and he had remembered how the church had engulfed him inside, the darkness and the smell of incense and dying flowers, how there had been a little ante-room off to the left in which he had found, puncturing the darkness, the simple colored glass squares of a window which reminded him of an old game they used to play, called Blokus, which had been a game about colonizing this gray board in squares, which had been a game about domination which Rucker had always been shit at, which had demanded a hardness for which he was too gentle.
After having seen the window, Patrick had remembered going back outside to tell Rucker about it, for he could not yell in the church. Rucker had still been standing there, his fists weighted in the black nylon of his puffer-coat pockets, still mumbling to himself, in a sort of daze, “Down the river was Notre Dame squatting against the night sky.”
“I was trying to gesture you inside. I was trying—”
“I saw it,” he said. “The window. Like a Blokus piece.” He did not look at Patrick as he said it, and after having said it he returned to his mumbling so that as Patrick walked back off in the direction of the abalone-covered mounds of the cemetery along the mission’s side to rejoin their parents he had heard the resumed utterances. “Down the river was Notre Dame squatting against the night sky. Down the river was Notre Dame—”
It had been sad, Patrick remembered, how Rucker had stood there mumbling, that there was a gentleness in him which sometimes hardened, which sometimes centered itself on things from which he wished to draw away the husk, from which he wished to derive some truth or beauty, but it was a sensitive rage, a specific hardness which had found in the sickness no evidence of a truth to be derived, of a beauty to be drawn out, and which therefore had left, to his most sensitive of fervors, none the foundation from which to narrow in.
Later that night, Patrick remembered, as he drove his black BMW-X5 home, his cousin drunken in the middle row behind him, the carpets smelling like Grey Goose and this stupid evergreen air-freshener bought in the weekend’s drunken haste and Monday’s sober want for restoration of order, which, it had, for $3.50, seemed so eager to have provided him, that Rucker had stayed up, had sat at the desk in their shared bedroom at the conference center, stooped over a package of m&m’s he’d torn open and spread. How he had seen himself in the mirror across the room, his hair dark, his body supine and shrouded by darkness against the glow from the corner where Rucker was illuminated, his black puffer-coat coated stooped shoulders, his dark, down-turned head, as though, in the deep gold cloud of Renaissance fresco substituted Jesus.
When he spoke to Patrick it was quietly, as though in the m&m’s he had once had an idea, a resting place for his literary sympathy, but which he had come to understand as dead to him, for he no longer, in his sickness, his little time, had any the will to derive it.
He had his dark hair pulled back with this strange elastic headband, thin black speckled with tiny speckles of gold, and this still concentration balanced over his downturned nose. “It’s not the case,” he had said, subjecting another cased-candy to the heat of his mouth in continuation of his meagre and final experiment.
“It’s not the case, Patrick, that’s the true part. The colors, they’re arbitrary. They’re all the same, but made up different.”
After this he folded the brown of the wrapper in a neat little box, the inside of it soft and flat like a worn bit of fleece, and placed it, along with his half of the head-sized peanut butter cookie on the dresser. He turned out the light, pulled on a pair of oxford-colored pajama pants, a worn St. Andrews t-shirt, climbed into bed.
It was thinking of this, the first night of that weekend, how conscientious he had been, how dripping he had been with sympathy, which had caused Patrick, a week later, to have laid down on the floor and cried over the half of the head-sized peanut butter cookie he had found in Rucker’s coat, in having taken it, by mistake, from his own desk chair, thinking it his own, and having found the peanut butter cookie of that weekend had survived him, a relic, that in driving, in the cold body of the car, with the pervading smell of Grey Goose and fake evergreen, his swerving, turning his wheels over the line.
This action evidently roused Terry, who, running a cuffed hand past his ear, zipping momentarily the tiny leather zipper-nib up his quarter zip sweater, had regained a cold and disturbed consciousness in the car’s second row.
“Jesus Christ, Pad. Ya tryna kill us?”
“No,” said Patrick, disturbedly, as though returning to himself. “No. Not at all.” He steadied his hands on the steering wheel only to find them alarmingly large, grown, to find this his car, his life, this five years with his brother out of it.
When he maneuvered his BMW-X5 past the neighborhood I-hop, he thought of the midnight pancakes he had got onetime with Rucker on a whim, in his coming home from St. Andrews and from the airport, the kind of fundamental rapture Rucker had used to harbor for the way butter melted iridescent coats onto the pancakes, would have had to see it then, but which Patrick, in holding the suggestion of stopping for a stack of pancakes up to his own sympathy, his own judgement, found, like a stretch of bare counter where one had felt certain to find a set of keys, an affronting clarity of space.
“Not at all,” he repeated, and after having guided Terry in through the alcove where he parked the car, after having settled Terry, over a glass of water, with a stool at the great wooden and whiskey colored slab of the kitchen island, had returned to his cold and waiting car. As he leaned, his ears frigid, his breath fogged in the black cold, thinking himself suddenly old, suddenly removed of what he knew as stable, that sense of confidence in his place in the world, that impression of his boyhood receding away from him as distantly as the sound of car tires skidding, on the snow, down the road, picked up the thin neck of a Grey Goose bottle which, on the ride back had kicked around the foot-beds, the black Penguin copy of ‘The Selected Lord Byron’ Terry had left on the floor, an unintentional paperweight to half an old section of the New York Times, the impression that it was the stupid things you remembered: how your brother had been too gentle for a board game, too young to have died.