We walked toward my apartment down 149th street alongside the park. It was dark and gloomy, the way I always liked it being. The desolate fields felt eerie as if specters were watching us walk by. There was a rumor some of my friends buried a kid in the park but that was a story for another time.
Glory held my hand underneath the constellations of Hercules and Corona Borealis. I wanted to know more about the stars so I could navigate us out of this place. There wasn’t enough time to do anything in this world, so I picked up the pace. It was a lit fuse. Only a matter of time before I fucked this up.
“What’s the matter?” Glory asked, stopping in her tracks and pulling me toward her. She pulled me close, placing the back of my knuckles on her mouth, as if testing them for heat.
“It’s Mr. Dailor,” I said. I stared at her and thought how we could be this far apart one day at a ceremony, making tough promises, hoping our hearts would never stray.
“Who is Mr. Dailor?”
“A friend of the family. I’ve known him for like my entire life.”
“So what’s the problem besides the fact that he looks off his rocker?”
“Everytime I see him he asks about her and I lie and pretend we’re good but we’re nowhere near good.”
“Stop lying. You don’t owe anyone an explanation.You don’t have to talk about anything. With him, with me or anyone.”
“Wilhelm,” Mr. Dailor yelled, as he changed direction, while tugging his mangy looking dog with him. He was one the few to say my name right. “How’s things? You look like you’re doing alright. Still mixing it up, huh.”
“I’m well.” Liar.
“And who is this? She’s a looker.”
“This is Glory. We are in agreement. She looks great this evening. Glory, this is Mr. Dailor.”
“Nice to meet you,” said Glory.
“He’s a handsome lad.”
“We are also in agreement,” said Glory, mocking me. I felt bright red. Feverish. Wasn’t I too old to be blushing?
“How is your mother? Good woman.”
I almost lied, but instead I blurted out, “I wouldn’t know.” I knew, though, so there was still a lie in there. She was alone and destroyed. Heartbroken and irreparable.
“What does that mean? How do you not know? She’s your mother. I don’t get that.”
“The truth was I haven’t spoken a word to her in about eight years.”
“Get out of here. No way. I didn’t know it was like that. I’m sorry. I would never not want to talk to my kids for that long.”
“It’s not how I want it to be. Nothing ever is. It’s sad. We cease to have a relationship.”
“Some things. There’s reasons. It’s very messy.”
“She is your mom, Wilhelm. Good people. You have to talk to her. I know how she can be.” I knew what he was implying. “But she needs you in her life. You should try to patch things up.”
“I can’t. I can’t talk to her. I can’t help her. I can barely help myself. I’m sorry. I have to get going.”
“Alright. Just mull it over. Think about it.” I always thought about it. “And put some ice on that eye. Nice meeting you.”
“And you. Your puppy is eating something.”
“God damn it, Karloff. Don’t eat that. Spit it out.”
We walked past the benches where a hundred years ago we used to all hang out, we passed the handball court where I played all day, and wrote on at night with spray paint. I don’t know if Glory noticed but I had drunkenly written on it last week, and it read, It is possible I have done nothing important, W. Flood.
Some people never accomplish anything in their lifetime. How fucked up was that? How is it possible to be content? We washed away the routine at the pub for as long as I could remember, and there was a good chance friends of mine were seated there now. I’ve walked this street so many times. I wanted a different walk home. Glory squeezed my hand sensing I was upset but I didn’t want her pity. It was too much.
“Eight years is a long time. You alright?”
“I think I reside in a constant flux of being alright and pretty removed from alright.” I was never alright. I was never fine. This was my problem, not hers, and was it fair to drag her into this.
We didn’t say much the rest of the way. I felt like it was already ruined which would have been better off for her. Name one thing that wasn’t corrupted, and if not, it was only a matter of time. Or it could all be in my head. I thought of the fast paced walks home from the bar where I stumbled and weaved across the pavement. I thought about the cities and the lives I might have led had I just left. I thought about how badly I wanted Glory in my bed.
I dreaded returning home. It started as a child. I hated going home. Who knew what I would be walking into. And though this was a better place than the other addresses I’ve had I still felt it. That sense of dread coursed through me and anxiety rattled my bones. Eight years later, Hattie is somewhere else, and I felt guilty for whatever her life was like now, knowing I only contributed more grief. I was so certain I would be the one to come home and find her corpse, but it would be someone else’s duty. I knew it was on the horizon, it always was.