The Weapon of Young Gods #12: Tourniquets

I’m sitting in Harbor House waiting for Justin when the pain comes back. I squirm and shift my weight in the little booth near the door as the dull ache enveloping everything below my navel gets sharp and angular. Over at the other end of the diner the waitresses clink silverware and yell at the cooks as they get ready for the dinner rush. They haven’t been over to check on me in ten minutes, but that’s because I said I was expecting someone. Expecting someone, sure. Well I was, but now I’m expecting someone else. That should be funny, but it’s not.

Previous Episode

The table is absolutely grubby and I spend five minutes wiping it down, wiping it clean with two, three, four brown paper napkins. Another wave of pain shivers through me and I wonder if this is normal or if I aggravated things somehow by running instead of walking out of that empty courtyard in South Laguna. I’m not sure if I was in the right place because Derek’s sister sounded kind of weird when she told me over the phone, but I don’t really care about that now and I’m not going back there anyway. The only problem will be explaining any of it to Justin.

He cruises in a few minutes later, cool as ever. My cousin is always the coolest fucking guy in the room, no matter where we are. His hair is perfect, his clothes are crease-less, his smile is expertly deployed at all times (which helps melt the crusty old waitress who catches his eye at the door), and he always knows exactly what to say to anyone in any situation. The fact that he can do all this wired to the gills only makes him cooler, or cooler than his brothers anyway. Chris is too crass and Kyle is just chaos in a bottle, but Justin carries himself like the big brother should: all-knowing, no apologies, no explanations needed. He just is. I’ve always wished I had him as a brother instead of Jaime and Miguel. They’re not cool and they never will be.

Justin takes off his jacket and slides into the booth across from me. He knows why it’s too painful for me to stand up and hug him right now.

“How do you feel, cuz?” He almost sounds like he means it.

“A little better,” I reply. “I’m not dripping blood anymore, if that’s what you mean.”

Justin nods slowly, ignoring the nasty part. “Yeah, well, that’s good then, right?”

“I guess so,” I say, but don’t really believe that. “It still hurts like hell.”

“Well, they said it might for, like, a few days, right? Is it heavy? Wanna go back and-”

“No,” I interrupt him. “I don’t want to see that place ever again.” I can do without the vomiting and the spontaneous fucking sobbing fits too, but I don’t think he’d appreciate hearing that.

“Ok then.” He waits like I’m supposed to say something, but I don’t follow and don’t really want to talk about this anyway, so I bring up the other thing.

“Do you have it?”

He pats his jacket near the pockets. “Now?”

“Now. Please.”

I reach out a hand and snatch the little envelope as soon as he drops it on the table, and stash it in my teeny vinyl purse.

“Yikes,” he says evenly, raising an eyebrow. “Steady as she goes, huh?”

I shrug. “I could have totally used that earlier today, Justin.”

“Oh really? Did you, like, tell him?” He looks me in the eye for the first time.

“Huh? Um… I- no, I didn’t.” I scoot to the end of the booth, away from him, and lean against the wall.

Now he looked puzzled too. “I thought we were cool about that, Lisa. I thought we decided that he should know.”

We hadn’t decided. Justin had decided, and I went along with it. I wasn’t in control enough at the time to really make any decisions about anything, and he’d sort of helped me come to some necessary conclusions. Made some necessary decisions. Paid some necessary fees. Some expensive fees. Provided some necessary consolation. Offered some necessary chasers. Promised some necessary silence and secrecy. He said I didn’t owe him anything but I know I probably will at some point. I hope that’s not today. I love my cousin but I don’t really love the idea of doing him any favors, even if I owe him.

“So… are you ever going to tell him?”

He doesn’t ever ask why I haven’t yet. The diner is beginning to fill up now, mostly locals but some tourists, up from the marina, bitching at each other in these stupid hick accents from Midwest Bumfucksville. Some teenagers, too; I forgot that other people are on summer vacation. I wonder how permanent mine will be. Outside the streetlights flicker on one by one.

“I don’t think…”

“You don’t think….what, Lisa?”

“I don’t think… I don’t think I’m going back to Chico next year, Justin.”

He blinks, startled. “Okay. Have you, um, talked to your beloved family about this, Senorita Elisa?” He mangles the accent on purpose and smirks almost involuntarily. Justin hates my family almost as much as I do.

“No.” Which is true, but I don’t have anything else to say about it, and we sit there for another few minutes in silence before the waitress comes back asking for our order. Justin orders a bowl of fries and I just ask for another Coke. I’m just packing in the coke, I guess. The waitress goes away and he looks me square in the face again. I can’t stand it when he does this, I always feel unable to hold his stare.

“You should probably, like, tell him, you know.”

How can I tell him something I barely remember? I’m not sure I will ever be able to make Justin get this, so I just agree.

“I know. I will.” The bluntest knife in the world is massaging my stomach.

“When?” He sounds a little more insistent, moving toward the wall to face me directly.

“Just…. soon.” I look past Justin toward the bathroom door. The little envelope is corroding its way through my purse, but I try to ignore it and tell myself that it will be better later. The waitress comes back with his fries but he doesn’t acknowledge her or eat anything, and she leaves again in a jaded huff.

“You realize,” he says, “that it’s a little late, right? That you’ve been, um, overtaken by events, or whatever, right, Lisa?”

Usually at this point I’d begin to feel stupid and apologize, but he was a little harsh and I can’t bring myself to care about what he thinks right now. I think he realizes it- that he’s jumped too far down my throat this time, because he stops and gives me a palms-up, ‘it’s your life’ kind of gesture, and starts picking at his fries. “Ugh, they’re cold,” he grimaces.

We hang out for another hour or so before Justin has to leave. He always says the same thing, about “outrunning a few cops back to Fullerton,” as if he’ll ever get caught or blamed or held responsible for any of the crazy shit he does. The collected and connected ones never get hassled, do they? Never have to worry. He doesn’t say it this time, though- he just gets up, leaving most of his food, snatches his coat, gives me a warm, gentlemanly kiss on the cheek, and drops a twenty on the table for the waitress. Well, the price of uneaten fries for the waitress, and the rest for me. Even if he doesn’t say it, he makes a show of taking care of me. After he’s gone and she brings me change, I put it away next to my fake ID and slowly get up out of the booth.

I’m out the door and a few steps down the sidewalk when I remember I don’t have the truck and have to make a serious effort to recall if I was supposed to have it today or if it’s Liv’s turn, but I figure if I don’t then she does. Happy little Liv, Daddy’s baby girl, princesa preciosa, blah blah blah. Aces all her Spanish classes and gets the truck on weekends. Fuck. I hate having to depend on Liv, but I call her anyway from the pay phone outside and then go back to sit inside and wait for her.

Another short set of aches twists up my insides, so bad that I almost cry, and I marvel at how Justin could be so stupid. He should fucking know that telling Derek won’t make a shit of difference, even if he is the father. It sure won’t make the goddamn stabbing pain go away.


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    • La Elisa on February 21, 2008 at 07:24

    Roy would like to pass on the message that he fixed his “problem.” Whatever that means. I guess if you click the “previous episode” link you could find out.

    I would like to pass on the message that I don’t do edits, okay? If I can’t say it in a first draft, I won’t be saying anything. That doesn’t mean you can’t suggest them, of course. It just means that I probably won’t take any hints. I can only humor for so long, dig?

    • pfiore8 on February 21, 2008 at 07:55

    and hello Lisa. sorry for what what you went through… on your own.  

    • RiaD on February 21, 2008 at 08:04

    you got your problem fixed too…

    & no it won’t make a shit of difference but he should know. y’know?

    this tale is really intriguing me

    ::psst~ the 1st para is up twice::

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