The Lost Kids
After drinks, Seamus and I decide to grab a growler of something and continue the shenanigans at my place. It’s not our fault that we both have Pringles syndrome. It’s a genetic problem, where once you pop, the fun don’t stop, and you just sort of drink until something interesting happens or you pass out. I grab a gallon of cider from the place on the corner. We’re on the other side of Queens, so we request an Uber. As Seamus rambles about his next set of sculpture ideas, I watch the small car icon circle around the nearby blocks on my phone screen. The driver is lost, of course. The driver is six minutes away. The driver is 18 minutes away. The driver is approaching. The driver is seven minutes away. The driver has arrived. Bullshit system…
We get in the car. “Are you Gretchel?”
“Huh? My name is Gretchen…I don’t really know how that gets messed up…It’s like…a pretty normal name. Dude, did he just call me Gretchel? Is that a name, ever?”
“Gretch, shut up, man…who cares?”
Seamus is sitting in the front of the car. The chairs are plush, which is something that reminds me of children and their boogers. You know, when you’re a kid, and your friend’s mom has that mini van with plush seats, and you just always know that your friend’s little brother rubbed his snot all over the seats, and it will forever be encrusted in the soft material? Leather seats just make so much more sense…But as I sink into the seat and start to warm up in the heat of the car, I get tired. The driver is talking to Seamus about the food he used to cook. He’s from the Caribbean.
“…and we always usin’ de coconut in ou’ cookin’, unnastand? Now I buy de coconut milk in de sto’. Bat we used to be crackin’ opun de coconuts and poundin’ de meat wit de wata inside…” He talks about his cooking a while longer and segues into a monologue about how lizards are pets over here, but in his home country, they’re food.
“When I was a kid,” Seamus starts, “my mom took me to a store where they were selling rabbits and asked me which one I liked best. I thought we were getting one as a pet, but as soon as I chose it, they hung it up, stuck its throat, and skinned it. I was horrified. I can’t eat meat to this day.”
I ignore Seamus’s meatless lifestyle, because I want to stay friends. I just can’t stand vegetarians or vegans as regular dining companions. Them and their speeches about where to find protein, as if it was some scavenger hunt. It’s terrible. In fact, I went through a phase in which I used that dating app, Tinder, to rebel against the vegan institution. For some reason, lesbians and vegans are almost as mutually inclusive as peanut butter and jelly. I gave up, though, after I had enough conversations that went like this:
Stranger: “Hey cutie”
Me: “Are you a vegan?”
Me: “There is no valid reason for your eating habits. Please discontinue your useless avoidance of animal products!”
But that’s neither here nor there. Or anywhere, maybe. Anyway, the driver is surprised to hear that Seamus’s mom allowed him to choose what he ate:
“When I was a kid, ya didn’t have no say in what ya madda makin’ fa’ dinnah, son. If I even look at my madda the wrong way, I get my ass beat. Back den, you get a beatin fa’ everythin’, son. And dese days, ya hit ya kid, dey call de cops, an’ it’s a crime. I tell ya, son, I got a daughta’. She’s twenty yea’s old. I say, “we goin’ on vacation.” I take dem back to my country, I teach ha’ a lessun, son. I tea’ ha ass up. And den we come back here, I don’t lift a finga’, son. But de kids dey don’t have de respect. I don’t do nuthin’ illegal, son. But ya gotta teach dem, unnastand? You know, son? When I play hooky as a kid, my madda break a chai’ ovah my back, son. She don’ play. An’ I don’ evah play de hooky again, son.”
As I try to decide if I’m hearing all this right, I begin to feel nauseous. Who is this guy’s daughter? Where is she? What did he do to her? The plush is on my skin, and the heat makes breathing thick. My feet and hands tingle and sweat, and my lips are wet with saliva.
“Shay, let’s walk.” He turns around and looks sorry, embarrassed for not saying anything to the driver, maybe.
“Excuse me… can you pull over, dude? Here is good.”
“You sho’, son?”
“Yeah.” We don’t tip the bastard, and he starts mouthing off about the entitlement of our generation as we shut the doors over his lunacy and walk away. We’re about ten minutes from my place, anyway.
“Shay, that guy was such a douche…like how the fuck does Uber employ people like that? You can’t fucking say that shit to people you’re driving around. He was bragging about abusing his fucking daughter. Like what the fuck is that shit about? How are we supposed to hear something like that and then not be able to do anything to fucking help?”
“I know.” We open the cider and start to drink it from the growler as we walk down the street. I have this theory that there aren’t any cops in Queens. There are just these garden gnomes that ticket cars parked in the wrong places. It’s cold, but the cider starts to warm me up and removes the recency of our car ride. When you’re powerless, sometimes you have to fill up the powerlessness and be it, I have found. The truth of it makes me sad, sometimes, but it’s a rare occurrence.
We get to my place, and I open the door. “Jesus H. Christ!” Seamus flares his nostrils and purses his lips at the stench emanating from my building.
“So…there’s this cat that dies in its own feces about once a week in one of these first floor apartments…sorry about that, but I find four days out of seven, the place smells like glade, man. I swear…” We run up the four flights of stairs to my place to escape the nastiness, and I shut the door as soon as we’re in to seal out the demons. One of my roommates, Vanessa, is burning some fucking Yankee Candle in her room that is supposed to smell like cake and fairy poop or grape soda or some bullshit. It beats the dead cat.
“Gretchen…I don’t even know if that was a cat shit smell,” Seamus continues, bitter for being hostage to scents. “Have you ever heard of scaphism?”
“Is that the one where ancient Greeks took someone they sentenced to death and rubbed them in honey and then force-fed them honey and milk until they were shitting themselves and then tied them in between two canoes with their hands and feet bound outside the canoes so that pests would be attracted to them and come feast on them as they died in their own poop as they floated around in a lake? I have looked at all the names on the mailboxes here, and they’re all Russian. I don’t think any of them know about scaphism. I do think they know about cats. It’s cats, Shay.”
“If you insist.” Seamus goes to the fridge for a beer, since we drank all the cider. I wait for his reaction with a buzzed grin. “Where is all the Stella!” There is no beer in the fridge, because I drank it all the other day after a long night at work.
“Can you go to the store?,” I ask, widening my big, blue eyes to make him feel guilty. “I’m tired and cold.” Seamus is the laziest bastard on the planet, but I know he’ll do it for me, because he’s secretly in love with me. It might sound cocky, but it’s true. It sucks for him, because the Stella was technically his.
My great-great-aunt Barb taught me that you always keep your best friends’ liquor in your house if you’re a good person. She used to have us sneak airplane bottles of whiskey into the nursing home for the two men in her life (both named Jack, as convenience would have it). Jack one liked Makers Mark, and Jack two liked Jim Beam. Jack one was a douchebag, if you ask me. Now, Jack two, I could respect, because I never held up well against Jim Beam, and as far as I know, Jim Beam was not Jack two’s primary reason for shitting his Depends. Barb never drank either Jack’s whiskey. She knew how to keep it chill like a true gangster, and I just don’t have her collectedness. But I digress.
“Ugh…I hate you…What do you want?”
“Whatever you want, dude. But actually there’s this place down the street that sells decent white wine for like five bucks on sale, and I don’t really know what’s wrong with it. I think it’s actually a mistake. Go grab a couple bottles of that, and we can get house-wife status together. C’mon. I have new yarn. We can scarf-knit race.
“It’s winter! You want white wine?”
“Yeah please…Or surprise me. I don’t care. Grab a bottle of Fernet, actually. We can Skype Hem!” Seamus doesn’t really like Hemingway. He thinks he’s a bad influence on me, but I can’t honestly say who is worse. And Seamus has only met Hem once. “OK we don’t have to Skype Hem, but just get ye’ to the store! Jesus, man, I can feel the sobriety coming on…ain’t nobody got time to be hungover at eight PM.”
After he leaves, I open the fridge to look for some food. I only have some leftover dumplings from a couple days ago. Vanessa has hummus, and Eddie has spaghetti and meatballs. I cut off half a meatball and gulp it down, ravenous. To cover my tracks, I turn the remaining meatball half on its side, propping it up against some spaghetti to make it look whole. Hopefully, Eddie will be high when he eats it and not really notice or remember the strange half-meatball. Then, I take a few spoonfuls of Vanessa’s hummus. Fuck…it’s so good. I eat half of the tub before putting it back. I will buy her a new one later. Or something.
When Seamus gets back, he pulls out two bottles of cold Chardonnay.
“Woooo–the housewife hour is upon us!”
“Woo!” He smiles, clearly priding himself on his ability to stir up some enthusiasm from my normal monotonous stoicism.
“Oh! There you are! With the sun setting so early in the winter, there are only so many hours in a day I can see you when you’re not smiling.”
“Cheers, dude.” I open the two bottles, and we drink straight from them, like the fancy people that we are.
“Something like that.”