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Restitution
Topic Started: Sep 27 2017, 06:50 PM (130 Views)
Brackie
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i love him, i love him, i love him, i love him
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
July, 2008

St. Paul, Minnesota


"I'm sick of this. I didn't want this, and you're not gonna have the self-satisfaction of acting better than me. I've got my own problems now."

"Who's acting?"


In a dark bedroom, a fist flew at a mirror.

It didn't shatter, of course. Brendan wasn't strong enough for that even on his best days, let alone months after they stopped coming to pass. But an almighty echo reverberated throughout the house and Brendan clutched his fist to his chest in a frothing brew of pain and anger.

He heard footsteps from the stairs. His parents. He collapsed to the carpet beneath his window, a position he had yet to vacate in lieu of his bed for as long as he'd been back in St. Paul.

"I'm FINE... just fine. Everything's... fine."

He repeated his assertion unconvincingly, his pain-free hand holding its twin to his body as it throbbed. The steps stopped. He felt a seize in his throat as he tried to keep his cool. The steps from outside the door continued again, but in the opposite direction.

They'd taken him for his word.

What a fucking joke.

They must not have watched him on the island. They'd know what his word was worth then.

Pained guttural gasps forced their way through Brendan's throat as he sat beneath the bedroom window, nursing his knuckles, in the exact same position he'd found himself in every night since he'd been back. The only thing missing was the Regina Spektor playing in the background.

He couldn't sleep on the bed. Every time he tried he had dreams. Dreams of when a blue-haired girl stood over him with a metal baseball bat removing his teeth. Dreams of when he turned the flashlight on and he was wading through the remains of a boy who'd been dead a week. Even worse, he'd have dreams of lying in the lap of his boyfriend for hours upon end. And of course the dreams would end and he'd return to reality and he'd vomit on the carpet or piss his bed like a broken housecat. So he sat there every night, trying to retain a semblance of sleep and sanity through his music. But all it would take was a word or a phrase or a verse and it would all come crashing down.

Tonight he had no music to face. Literally, but not figuratively.

Because Kimberly Nguyen had taken him from his recovery and destroyed him. She told him how little of value he was to the human race like she was better than him.

Which she wasn't.

Brendan knew what he was worth as a human being, and after everything he'd done he was still better than her. They weren't equals. She had no ivory tower to sit on. She who acted like over the phone she wanted to talk about Erik because she was there instead of him, and even though he should have known better he went there anyway to have her berate him for stuff he couldn't control. How fucking dare she do that. How. Fucking. Dare.

As the pain subsided, he looked into his wardrobe. He saw his old jumper, something he wore out through the winter months. The more he looked at it, the more it suddenly painted a different picture.

Brendan made his way to his feet. He felt the chill behind him and the curtains graced his shoulders. His eyes remained trained to his old black jumper.

He walked through the laundry and stains coating his bedroom floor to his wardrobe, to the solitary black jumper. The more he looked at it, the less he saw it. It was no longer a jumper he'd had since he was 15 years old, something of warmth and protection from the Minnesota cold.

It was the taunting stature of someone who shouldn't be here.

"No... no no no... nonononononononononononoNO."

Brendan's murmurs became whispers and his whispers became screams as he yelled at what was no longer an old black jumper but instead a girl who shouldn’t be here.

"You shouldn't be here."

His voice returned to its natural volume.

That's right. She shouldn't.

"You shouldn't have come back."

His voice was losing control once more.

"He should have."

Brendan's hands started shaking uncontrollably.

"Erik should be here."

His breath became ragged and his voice returned to its shout.

"ERIK. SHOULD BE HERE."

"NOT YOU."

He felt the ascending steps outside the door through his own touch of the carpet.

"ERIK SHOULD BE HERE INSTEAD OF YOU."

"YOU SHOULDN'T BE HERE."

"ERIK DESERVED TO LIVE."

"NOT."

"YOU."

*
Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image
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I can't sing but I wrote you a song

Wrong notes but the melody's so clear

When I'm lost, I'm still close to gold

cause I found my treasure in you
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Brackie
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i love him, i love him, i love him, i love him
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
April, 2012

Fremantle, Australia


In spite of all his remonstrance with society’s gender roles, he still wanted to organise a great day for Miranda.

He originally wanted to do something more out of the box. Make something peculiar but spectacular, something she’d remember. He’d thought about it for weeks, tried calling friends and employers for ideas, but as the date grew closer and the planning time shrunk he quickly realized he was going to have to think up something good for their Leather year. It was pure Cotton this time, unfortunately.

“Tell me where we’re going, c’mon,” Miranda said, as the Uber turned another corner. She swayed slightly more than usual, possibly due to the fact she didn’t know the turn was coming, on account of the blindfold. Brendan smirked. This was the third time she’d asked on this trip alone. She was becoming a backseat beggar.

“What’s the point of an anniversary surprise then? Should I start running these by your assistant?” Brendan asked, before a soft laugh.

“Careful, I married you because of your looks, not your sense of humour, don’t get too cocky,” Miranda replied, as the Uber eventually came to a stop. He bid the driver farewell, took Miranda by the arm, and led her through the parade of cars to the location of their second year anniversary.

As they reached the door, Brendan clasped the handle, twisted, and tried to immediately bolt for the familiar sound of the bell by the corner, only for it to tinkle pathetically under his fingers. Miranda’s mouth slightly gaped open, although Brendan guided her quickly through the door before she could voice her thoughts. The married couple quickly stepped inside, Brendan closing the door behind them, before unclasping the velcro at the back of her blindfold and letting her see.

“SURPRISE!”

An entire studio of people announced the familiar surprise party phrase as Miranda began to see again. Before her stood a room of people, including their friends, Miranda’s friends, Brendan’s friends, and various others including Miranda’s employers, who made sense on two fronts, given Miranda treated them much like her own absent family, and this was their studio that they’d closed for the afternoon.

It wasn’t much. Hell, it was probably more suited to a birthday than a second anniversary party. But Miranda smiled anyways and kissed her husband.

“This is great, Ben.”

*

The music started up not long after the couple arrived. An unholy mix of speed metal and synthwave, which was from Miranda’s own personal collection back when she had tried her hand at it during her high school years. It was loud enough to have many of the guests wondering what it was, but not loud enough to drown out their conversation starters. There was food, there was alcohol flowing freely, an esky lying beneath a bolted down bed already drowning its tins, and everyone seemed to be having a good time.

Although Brendan’s face wasn’t exactly showing it.

Sure, he’d spoken to many of the guests he’d invited, sure he was putting up with glib jibes from Miranda’s friends about kitchens and the loss of Brendan’s manhood or something (as though they had no idea he’d spent a good year of his life in Fremantle sucking cock while Miranda tasted various women’s lipstick), and sure he’d done the rounds and retrieved a plastic sack of ice from one of the eskies hidden in an outside car, and it was all normal and routine and just like normal guys who were 21 and Australian and had a missus and was settling down and probably had a kid on the way soon all acted. And sure Brendan was 21 and Australian and had a “missus” and was “settling down” whatever that meant and whenever they decided to get careless there would probably be a kid because of that but there was no escaping the feeling that everything he did felt like he was pretending to be a well-adjusted adult who did everything expected of him rather than being an actual well-adjusted adult who was doing what they normally did.

This constantly invading train of thought followed him to the back of the studio to what would have been best described as a courtyard but more accurately described as a square hole with a toilet block. He stood there, looking up to the sun dipping out of sight, holding a can of vodka soda, trying to psyche himself back into the studio but had no luck. He took a sip, no more luck. He started gulping down a cascade of the stuff, none of the courage describe in colloquialism coming to him, and suddenly there was no more vodka. Brendan placed the can on the small brick ledge and sighed.

The music momentarily heightened as the door opened, with Miranda in its wake.

“Hey you,” she said, before swooping up for a kiss, “People’re asking about the host, need me to tell them something?”

“Nah it’s fine, it’s…” Brendan went silent, before making the familiar head gesture for what he went through often at parties.

“Connections? Or Reload?”

“Reload.”

“Gotcha,” Miranda leaned over and grabbed the empty vodka can, haphazardly chucking it towards the bin at the door. It landed on the rim before bouncing back in. She turned back to her husband.

“Need some space? ‘Cause if not, I’m not needed in there.”

“It’s all good, just need some time collect, y’know?

“Right, hence the Reload and all,” she replied, referring to the term they’d used for two things: a gay party that once existed in Perth they’d attended several times over the past two to three years, and code for when Brendan needed time to collect his energy back again so he wasn’t drained.

Miranda sat on the ledge next to Brendan, snaking her arm around his.

“Anything else?” Miranda asked, leaning on Brendan’s shoulder.

“Just the usual stuff, y’know. Those little nagging feelings I have at the back of my mind that are wondering whether all my friends really like me or are playing some huge extended practical joke on me or something.”

“Oh yeah, that’s another thing - the marriage is off, I never liked you. Even though I gave up Gregory for Harris, it was just all part of the long con.”

Brendan chuckled. There were times he did occasionally think that, but today was not one of them, even with Miranda’s sarcastic quip at his own expense.

“Nah, I know you’re for real. You married into a family of redheads, nobody does that unless they’re in it for the haul.”

“What’d you call me?” Miranda added, without even missing a beat. Brendan laughed.

“I’m the haul, remember? You’re just the ass.”

“Oh bite me.”

“Okay!”

Brendan wrapped his arms around Miranda’s waist and swung her in front of him. She let out a delighted shriek before grabbing onto Brendan’s arms to stop herself from falling over. He playfully lifted her up from the ground and buried his face in her neck, which elicited another shriek on her behalf. He quickly lowered her back down to the raised brick platform and stopped to look into her deep blue eyes.

“I love you, Miranda Gregory, you know that?”

She smiled again. God he loved her smile.

“And I love you too, Benjamin Harris.”

They kissed again, but there was definitely more to the kiss this time. Miranda could feel it just as much as Brendan could, but rather than continuing in the direction they both seemed to be going, she slipped out of Brendan’s grasp and headed towards the door back to the studio.

“You know, I think I need a few more minutes before I go back-” Brendan started, before realizing Miranda had taken a key from her skinny jeans pocket and had inserted it into the door handle, glancing at the barred tinted windows of the back of the studio in the process.

“I think you do too.”

They both smiled, before returning to the kiss on the platform. Miranda’s jeans became unzipped as Brendan’s shirt became unbuttoned, and this would continue for quite some time until there was almost nothing between them.

Miranda’s hands ran down Brendan’s back, along one mural of ink, before tracing it to the other. In all the times they’d shed their clothes together, she’d never once asked about his tattoos, or at the very least she’d never pried more than the answers she gave him. He’d told her it was from school - he had a list of names down the back of his ribcage, and along the other one he had a collage of faces. They were young, probably no older than him. He mentioned there were friends who changed him, but even though they were married and the actions of that warm Fremantle night would complicate things further inside an already complicated marriage with a complicated foundation, she’d never heard the real reason why he’d chosen to put them there.

Especially in a place with so much pain.
Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image
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I can't sing but I wrote you a song

Wrong notes but the melody's so clear

When I'm lost, I'm still close to gold

cause I found my treasure in you
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Brackie
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i love him, i love him, i love him, i love him
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
February, 2010

Modern Ink


The one thing that nobody ever told Brendan before he set out to get this done - tattoos on the ribs? A fucking pain.

He still had several lines to go, but he wanted to punch his artist in the mouth. She was old - 45 years and American. Still had an accent, though not one he recognized. Brendan hadn’t bothered to ask where she came from, because he’d feel like an idiot for not knowing. There was a bunch of other things he could be considered an idiot for, but somehow this one simple thing was utmost right now.

As Brendan lay prone, he looked towards the doorway of the studio when the tinkling of the bell above the door entered his thoughts. From that moment on, he changed his expression. When the studio was empty of everyone except the professionals, he was fine with showing his pain and protesting it loudly. They’d probably seen worse come through here, there had to be a reason there was a lot of buckets hanging around.

But in spite of his life, Brendan was still anxious about what people thought of him. Fremantle only had thirty thousand people in it, and knowing his odds one of his many acquaintances would walk through the doorway and he’d become self-conscious and cagey and completely at odds with how he presented himself and then everything would just fall apart.

Nobody he recognized was at the doorway, though. A woman. Long black hair, shapely, tattoos poking out from her sleeveless shirt through her shoulderblades, the kind of woman who looked like she’d sprung from the pages of the Suicide Girls only with a quizzical expression on her face instead of a sensual one. She was looking at the newest frame on the wall, a display of the latest masterpiece the other artist in the studio had completed, which encompassed an entire arm and most of the stomach. Her expression morphed from quizzical to impressed.

Now that he knew she wasn’t anybody he knew, he could return to his normal vegetative state of pain.

Brendan bit down on the folded cloth between his hands.

*

“So you know the drill, right?”

“Of course, Janeane, but tell me again anyway.”

His side wrapped in plastic, Brendan handed over several yellow bills and waited for his change and care instructions written down on paper.

“Did you really go to your ribs for your first tat’?”

Brendan glanced to the side to see the woman from before sitting with a magazine perched in her lap.

“That takes balls, man, I reckon that’s gotta be the most painful spot on the body to get it done. Except for like the dick or something, but y’know.”

He flickered a smile towards the new woman now making conversation with him.

“Yeah, yeah I guess I did.”

She let out a laugh.

“Man, what’s so important you need to get it right the fuck on the ribs?”

“Oh, just some names. Important people, y’know.”

“Yeah, I thought I saw a ‘mum’ there.”

Brendan politely laughed. He was slightly uncomfortable now. Time to make up an excuse.

“Alright well-”

“Ben, here’s your change.”

“Oh, thanks Janeane, anyways-” he turned back to the new girl, “Guess I gotta go now, see you… around then.”

He headed towards the door, but upon hearing no response from the woman who started the conversation in the first place, he turned back around. She was still staring at him. Her look of inquisitiveness had returned.
Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image
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I can't sing but I wrote you a song

Wrong notes but the melody's so clear

When I'm lost, I'm still close to gold

cause I found my treasure in you
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Brackie
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i love him, i love him, i love him, i love him
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
March, 2010

Connections Nightclub


Brendan was never a fan of clubs, especially ones that catered towards his demographic, but tonight he was feeling especially good about it for some reason.

He stood at the bar awkwardly, in his black shirt, black skinny jeans and impeccably barbered hair, waiting for the round of drinks he ordered on behalf of his friends. The bar staff got paid hourly, though, so he was in for a long wait. He drummed his fingers on the counter as other customers with less cumbersome workloads got served, and he sighed.

He supposed this was what normal people did. Especially those of his “lifestyle”, as the opposition were calling it these days. Went out to the clubs, had lots of fancy dirty drinks, and regretted it the next morning. He’d been doing it for almost a year now, but it still felt foreign to him. Like he was stepping where he didn’t belong, where he only pretended he did. Was probably too much to ask for an LGBT coffee shop or gaming night on the edge of the world, huh?

Brendan felt his hand wander to his right ribs. It was itching. They were technically supposed to stop now, especially since it had already been a few weeks, but it persisted. He held the shirt against where the bruises had already healed, and grimaced while resisting the urge to scrape it off.

“You should probably see a doctor if it’s still healing, y’know.”

The 20-year-old was already on his way to rolling his eyes before realizing he recognized the voice. He spun around on his heels to come face to face with a familiar face.

“Oh. Hey you.”

“Hey you to you too.”

It was the woman from Modern Ink. Same hair, same tats creeping out, but looking like she was dressed to impress a gaggle of lesbians rather than treating it like any casual Thursday.

“Small world, huh?” she asked, bringing her drink to the smile on her face. Brendan’s face matched her own. He barely had any close friends in the area, yet somehow he’d stumbled upon the exact same woman twice in a month in two different cities. Small didn’t begin to cover it.

“I’ll say - how’d your, uh, tat go?”

“Oh, you mean from…” the woman asked, pointing off in no particular direction, “Oh I wasn’t getting a tat there, I was applying for a job. Apprenticeship or internship or something, y’know.”

“Ah, okay wow, cool stuff. How’d that go?”

“Well Janeane didn’t like me, so.”

“Ah. Bummer.”

“All good, I got a slot at a new place back in Fremantle, all worked out in the end.”

“Well that’s good, at least you got what you wanted in the end.”

“Yeah.”

An awkward silence followed. The other woman took a drink from her drink, before extending her hand.

“I’m Miranda, by the way.”

Brendan took her hand in his own.

“Ben. So what brings you here?”

“Oh, this is my regular joint. I’ve been coming here for years, even when I was underage. You?”

“Here with a bunch of friends for one of their anniversaries. I’m getting their drinks now, actually, they should be here any moment.”

“How long you been waiting?”

“I dunno, like 5 minutes?”

“Hah, good luck with that. Better settle in for the long haul.”

He sighed.

“Guess so, then.”

More awkard silence. This time, Brendan filled the gap.

“Wait, so how come we never noticed each other in here before? I’ve been coming here for almost a year now.”

“I probably just didn’t notice you.”

“...right. So what made tonight different?”

“Well duh, I remembered you from Modern Ink. Not every time you see a first timer getting a shitload of ink jammed into their ribs. Kinda makes you think about who’d be willing to subject themselves to that much pain”

“Right, right.”

Brendan looked towards the bar staff again, still concerned with other patrons.

“Just have some of mine,” Miranda said, shoving the large straw in Brendan’s face. He could already smell the drink from feet away, now he could experience it up close and personal. It smelt like petrol and citrus. He sipped anyway.

“God damn, do you just drink straight from the hose at a petrol station?”

She laughed.

The conversation continued for a while like that. They talked. Life, home, school (both still young enough where one could bring it up in conversation acceptably), if they’d been out of the country - while they waited for the drinks to come, they ran the gamut of everything they could talk about at a club’s bar at 11pm. Brendan noticed as the conversation dragged on they they were slowly tipping closer and closer together, even if they didn’t realize they were moving. Brendan was talking about his time spent as a teenage activist when Miranda grabbed his wrist.

“You know Ben, I don’t think these drinks are coming.”

Brendan blinked, looking down at her hand upon his.

“So I’m going to the bathroom, if you’d like to join me.”

Brendan’s eyes grew wide.

“Uhhhh…wh-wha-”

“Oh come on, you’ve been staring down my tits for half the time we’ve been talking here.”

“Wait, what? No, no I was looking at your drink.”

“Right, and I’m Sophie Monk.”

“No for real, I’ve been looking at it thinking how the fuck you can drink something that’s technically a fire hazard.”

There was a pause. Brendan felt the grip release from his wrist. The expression on Miranda’s face had died.

“Oh. Oh. Shit, sorry, sorry bout that, I thought-”

“No no, it’s fine, it’s fine, it’s-”

He paused.

He thought.

He looked back in the general direction of his friend’s table.

He looked around once more for the barstaff and the drinks

He looked back at Miranda.

“Which bathroom?”

*

Her watch gave a loud bang against the wall of the stall as Miranda devoured Brendan’s neck. Her hands were gripped on top of the opposite walls, his holding her body vertical as their pelvises connected, free of the clothing in between.

They were silent. It technically wasn’t frowned upon to have sex in the Connections bathroom, but Brendan didn’t want to take chances. They’d only been in the stall for five minutes yet it felt like an eternity. Not the bad kind of eternity, but the kind you could get used to if you were trapped there, like limbo. Brendan had had his own experiences with that kind of reality, and though this didn’t compare in any other way, he wouldn’t mind it.

A gasp escaped Brendan’s lips, but Miranda removed one of her hands from the top of the stall, throwing him off balance, to put it over his mouth. She shook her head. Brendan’s eyes narrowed suspiciously, before nodding, and regaining his balance.

Brendan knew he could return to the bar and the drinks still wouldn’t be there. He could have gone off, joined STAR like he knew he should have almost two years ago, and the drinks would still not have been made, and all of his friends would still be sitting in the bar waiting for him to come back with them. Nathan would still be there. Mitchell would still be there. Shaun as well would still be

THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP

He felt the power of the hammering fist through Miranda’s body from the wall behind, and she did too. They froze in place. Her heel dug into the back of Brendan’s leg as she tried to regain her footing, detaching herself in all ways from him in the process. Miranda pulled up her underwear. Brendan retrieved his jeans from the floor and buttoned them.

“Shit, shitshitshitshit-”

He opened the lock on the door of the stall and pulled the door open, coming face to face with his three friends. Nathan and Mitchell were emotionless, staring at him with contempt, but Shaun’s face betrayed no such regard. The anger was palpable.

“Shit.”

Shaun turned on his feet and stormed out of the bathroom. Brendan checked to make sure his fly was done up, looked back at the scene left behind, with Nathan and Mitchell standing in the hall of the grotty club bathroom and Miranda awkwardly hovering inside, and ran after Shaun.

“Wait, wait, wait, Shaun just-”

He hurriedly followed him across the club, passing by the dance floor, what remained of their belongings at the table, and eventually the bar, where a stack of close to twelve drinks waited unaccompanied.

*

“Shaun, Shaun just lis-”

“On our FUCKING six month anniversary Ben, really?”

The bouncer glanced to the side after checking a young blonde’s ID, where Brendan had his hands approaching his boyfriend.

“Look, I’m sorry okay, it just… it won’t-”

“It won’t what, Ben, happen again? Because you’ve already used that one.”

There was a pause as they both looked at the people remaining in the line. Some of them went back to their own conversations, or at least pretended to, while the rest kept watching.

“You know Ben, I think I would have preferred it if it was my ex again. A guy, that’s fine, I can handle that. But a fucking girl, really?”

“Shaun-”

“I try to fucking forgive you, Ben, even after everything, but you just… I don’t even know. I don’t know what the fuck’s wrong with you, but it’s like you’re just…” Shaun sighed, pinching his nose, “It’s like you’re just trying to find every fucking way possible to self-destruct what we have. I’ve worked so hard to forgive you for all the shit you’ve done, and I’ve worked so fucking hard, believe me on that fucking bit, to help you through whatever the fuck you think you’ve been going through, but I… I just...I can’t anymore.”

Brendan had nothing to say to that. He stood there, defeated. He felt footsteps behind him as Nathan and Mitchell joined their friends on the curb.

“We’re off.”

The three of them, possessions in tow, walked towards the nearest taxi. Brendan was still standing there.

He’d never really put it to thought before. Shaun wasn’t the first boyfriend he’d had since he came to the area, but he was now the latest in a pattern. Months would pass, once they began to see each other, he’d download Grindr or Gaydar and fuck a random, they’d find out and either forgive him or let him tank the relationship on his own terms. Fucking a girl, though, that was a new one. He swung that way, he knew that ever since he and Abby lost their virginities to each other almost 5 years ago now, but he hadn’t really acted upon it in what had to be years, now.

Brendan crouched to the gutter. He felt numb, and he knew why, outside of the obvious.

It was coming again. The urge to run. From the moment he was dumped on that fucking island in the middle of the ocean in 2008 he’d been ruled by it. When panic set in, he’d bail. The beach, the hospital, the logging road, St. Paul, the Northern Rivers… it was a pattern, now.

Patterns were made to be kept.

He wasn’t happy here, there was nobody here that made him happy. Shaun didn’t make him happy, Daniel didn’t make him happy, Jorge didn’t make him happy, Anton didn’t make him happy, none of those names without faces or faces without names made him happy or made him feel whole or filled the void inside of him that pulsated every day with a reminder of just how much his life had fucked up and fucked over and fucked off within the span of a week. He wanted to be happy. Be whole. Be content with how his life was going, like how he was content when he was in high school. Both high schools. But nothing happened. He waited, for years, and nothing happened.

Where would the next bus take him?

“So.”

Brendan turned around. Miranda was there.

“So, Ben.”

Brendan wanted to say something to her, but a pit was growing in this throat.

“May I?”

She gestured towards the gutter next to him. Brendan half-heartedly nodded, and Miranda made her way to the ground, right next to him. She crossed her legs.

“Boyfriend, huh?”

He nodded.

“Done this before, yeah?”

Once again, he nodded.

“But not with a girl, I take it?”

Brendan turned towards her.

“I don’t need this right now, okay?”

“Look, I’m not going to pretend I’m at all happy about what just went down here, but… I gotta know, what drives a gay guy to cheat on his boyfriend with a girl he just met?”

“I’m not gay.”

“Oh, right, welcome to the club then. Question stands, though.”

“I think I’m self-destructing.”

“Bit of an overstatement?”

“No, I think I am. I’m not happy here, I haven’t been happy here in a long time, and I don’t care about anyone anymore.”

Miranda was silent, then laughed.

“What, what’s so funny?”

“Brendan, do you think anyone’s happy here? Do you think if you ran up to twenty people on the street and asked them if they were happy, they’d all say yes? I’m not an apprentice because it makes me happy, I’m an apprentice because I’m doing what I need to do. If I wanted to be happy I’d go shack back up with my ex in Mandurah and we’d still be doing heroin. And it’d last about five minutes. You gotta fight for it.”

“Fight for what?”

“Happiness. It’s not just going to come to you, you need to work for it.”

Brendan’s eyes lay trapped in the gutter.

“I don’t think I remember how.”

More silence followed. Miranda sipped the drink she’d snuck by the bouncer to the curb.

“Well I guess you gotta find out then, don’t you?”

Brendan didn’t know how he was going to keep things going here, especially since he’d already made everything as bad as it could ever end up. Every bridge was burned. Every field was salted. Whenever he tried to end up in something resembling a functioning relationship, be it platonic or otherwise, he’d just ruin everything because he wasn’t feeling up for the people anymore. He knew it would end in nothing but ruin, but it hadn’t really hit him how badly ruin could destroy him until tonight.

Besides the tunes behind them, nothing broke the silence. Brendan looked at his companion in the gutter, idly swishing ice around in the glass, before extending his hand.

“Hi, I’m Ben, nice to meet you.”

Miranda looked at his hand and arched a brow.

“...sorry?”

“Can you just humour me, please?”

“....alright.”

“Hi, I’m Ben, nice to meet you.”

“Hi Ben, I’m Miranda, it’s a pleasure to know you.”
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I can't sing but I wrote you a song

Wrong notes but the melody's so clear

When I'm lost, I'm still close to gold

cause I found my treasure in you
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Brackie
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i love him, i love him, i love him, i love him
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
July, 2012

Fremantle, Australia


Brendan woke up to messages in his email inbox.

The curious thing, however, was that it was from the email address he used in high school.

Of course, he only knew this because of the various amounts of precautions he’d taken to make sure nobody else got into it. It was a Hotmail address, so the chances of it being hacked by the time it was a year old were almost a certainty. And despite the fact he never used it, he didn’t want anyone else to use it, especially since it was a connection to a part of his high school life he felt best left alone. So every few months he went and changed the passwords to something completely random, wrote it down in a book somewhere, then forgot about it until he needed that book again.

Today was password-changing day. He’d found the book, entered in the last password, ignored the prompt to add his phone number, and found out there were much more notifications than usual, all from Facebook. The occasional Facebook notification, he’d gotten used to that, especially for someone who was once in the public eye. But they were sparing, probably only 2 or 3 every six months.

This morning, there were 30. Alarmingly, they were from a wide array of people. And even more alarming, they’d all happened within the past 48 hours.

Brendan’s left eyebrow cocked. 30 messages over the course of 2 days? On an account that was for all intents and purposes dead? He had no idea what was going on, but it needed checking out.

He was about to click on the button that opened his Facebook page, but footsteps echoed down the house’s hallways, and Brendan instinctively closed the tab. He also instinctively moved the pointer to the history menu and erased everything from the past five minutes.

Miranda emerged from the hall to their bedroom, grey singlet stained and hair a frizzed mess. As he tabbed back to his own Facebook page, she came up behind him and wrapped her arms around him.

“Morning. Think you can drop me off at the pharmacy on the way to work this morning? I think I’m coming down with a bug or something.”

“Better not be Hendra virus, we might have to take you behind the shed Old Yeller style.”

“Lovely. Need anything while I’m there?”

“Doxylamine? They won’t give me any more under my name so reckon you can do it under yours?”

“Sure thing. Anything from the back alley pharmacy?”

“Reckon you can score some White Widow?”

“You know one day you’re gonna have to get it yourself, Ben.”

“It’s not becoming of bookkeepers to be caught in that part of town, remember?”

“Mmm. I’ll grab a hundred from your wallet.”

“Love you too.”

As she wandered off to grab leftover pad thai for breakfast, Brendan’s mind wandered back to the emails, which would probably be on his mind all day if he didn’t check it now.

But regardless of the fact he was married to the woman he loved, he still had secrets to keep from her. And he couldn’t foresee any circumstance in the future in which he’d need to divulge that part of his life.

*

Work that day was slow. It was probably the busiest non-chain electronics store in Fremantle, but that didn’t mean slow days didn’t exist, especially in the office.

So he was looking forward to getting home. There was a bill or two to be paid, but they could wait until later. The emails had been eating his curiosity alive while he was at work, bite by bite, and it was for the want of an office WiFi that blocked Facebook that he hadn’t already found out what was going on.

Once he was in the door, and once he made sure Miranda wasn’t home yet, he reopened his emails, his book still sitting on the desk by the loungeroom. Brendan scanned the first email, unable to really gleam anything from it, and clicked the link that sent him back to his old Facebook page.

He came to the security page. It wanted to know if it was really him, kind of like an old friend. Instead of an actual old friend, however, it held up pictures to make sure he could identify them as people who existed on his list of friends. He grimaced. All of the people they showed were still alive, a mix of friends from his first high school, Wade, and Chase. He identified them all, and he was finally led to his old Facebook page.

Brendan had never seen that many notifications in his life. Among the many friend requests, an assortment of what looked like either new accounts from old friends or fake accounts pretending to be old friends, and the global notifications, a mish-mash of game requests and posts on his wall, there was his messages.

Once again, 30 of them.

Swallowing, he clicked on the button, and followed it down to the menu that would display them all.

He first looked at the names. At first, they started out familiar - his aunt, the cousins that used to still speak to him after his ordeal in 2008, his mother. The further in they went, the more unfamiliar they became. They felt as though they were people he went to high school, but was never on speaking terms with. But the closer he came to the current hour, all the names became Greek to him, Who were these people? Why was a dead account getting messages as though it were alive and well?

Brendan looked at the opening lines of each message.

His family wanted him to come home, or rather they were asking them to contact his mother.

The names who bore some semblance to St. Paul were sending him links.

The others were insults. Some of them called him a faggot. Others, a coward.

It was confusing. The desire to know what was going on long since peaked, he opened the closest message to the mouse’s pointer.

The message was long, from someone he had no mutual friends with. But there were question marks. There were long strings of grammatically incorrect sentences. But there seemed to be a repeated phrase.

v5.

His mouth stood slightly agape, his eyes opening with them, when he realized what these messages meant. Without missing a beat, he tabbed to an open Google page and watched the cursor dance across the box as he typed in the phrase he was certain was going to provide him with the answer he didn’t want to hear:

v5 sotf school

And behold, the first page to pop up told him everything he didn’t want to hear.

Only a few days ago, links had shown up on the deep web to a stream from an island, with all the kids of a missing flight on it. Many were given guns. Many were already dead. But all of them were wearing the familiar black line around their neck that meant only one thing to Brendan.

It was all he could do to not throw up on his desktop. He fell from the seat to the floor, bashing his joints into the wood as he struggled to breathe, as memories came flooding back from when he was 17 years old,
of shooters killing kids on beaches
of friends gathered around squirming bodies in the sand
of girls impaled in hospitals
of his own wounded leg gushing blood
of Erik holding him as he cried
of a crowd of people in a mansion looking at him as he gazed up at Liz Polanski
of the kid he wade through in the dark searching for a light
of the fading life beneath his fingers which he caused because he was scared and he couldn’t see and
of the other boy holding a gun at his head telling him he didn’t deserve to live
of holding the body of the band leader he once did lighting for
of resisting the urge to pull the trigger between his fingers
of lying bloodied on church linoleum as a girl with blue hair beat him in with a blunt weapon with the intent to end his life
of sitting on the edge of the hospital roof realizing that the boy he loved was gone forever while he lay in a fucking hospital bed with IV drips and food and a roommate
and if there had been any food in his stomach, if he hadn’t of skipped lunch, it would have vacated itself as his belly turned rancid and a fist clenched his insides and pulled. Brendan was caught between one world and another as he lay on the floor of his house but every time he blinked or closed his eyes with every ragged toxic breath he could see the beach again and he could see everything and it was all happening at once. The entire history of the world was in his head as he struggled to breathe on the floor.

His limbs propelled him forward, collapsing as they did so. The bathroom was his destination, but every step felt an eternity, his sense of time was skewed as he could only think of his past, senses trapped in the scenario which should have lead to his death.

After somewhere between a minute and an hour, he made it to the shower, where he gripped the blue handle and turned. Jets of cold poured down on him, clothes and all. He grabbed the other handle with the hand not keeping him steady and turned as well, the gush fading from its icy cold to lukewarm.

Brendan hung his head under the water, taking long, deep breaths as he tried to get through the sensory overload. The water was no longer water, but pins raining down on him as he tried to remember what it was like to think. The tub was no longer a tub, but a coffin, smothering him as he tried to move even a little. But it was something.

He lay there, water pouring down on him, for what could have been forever.

However long it was, the warmness faded, replaced by cold.
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I can't sing but I wrote you a song

Wrong notes but the melody's so clear

When I'm lost, I'm still close to gold

cause I found my treasure in you
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