My younger brother dropped his bags at my feet, said, “I’ll be here a couple of weeks tops, Barney.” He brushed past, leaving his luggage.
“Sure.” My only reservation: Ely’s drug-dealing. I shrugged. Needed the rent money now I’d been fired .
He soon relegated me to the basement, taking residence, and court, in my bedroom. Does all kinds of deals in there. Doesn’t want me to see.
Sheila started as his customer, now she’s his accountant and lover. I hear their bedsprings most nights, lying right beneath them. Wonder how the bedsprings manage it. Glad they do. Don’t want them coming through the floorboards and smothering me with their horny sweat.
He disrespects me every day, and I take it. He’s subtle. Tells me I could do better than this sweater I’m wearing. Tells me I could eat better cereal. Tells me I could do better with a woman in my life. I nod. Women make me feel lonely. Including Adele under this basement’s concrete floor.
I try to get away, but public spaces make me feel lonelier. That bar is too rough, makes me feel threatened. This bar is a little too upmarket. Makes me feel looked down upon. Get enough of both at home.
I’ve taken to driving. It soothes, until I fill the car and watch the numbers whirl up. Random driving got a little boring, especially since the cops charged me with stalking. Aimless driving made me think of Ely’s cheek. Made me think of the money he throws around at me, as if I should bow before it. Makes me think of Sheila, all naked. Makes me wince that she’s naked with him. Not that I want her. Just makes me mad that he has somebody.
Couple of weeks ago I started following other cars again, getting right up their ass, sometimes shadowing them all the way to their driveways. Women, and I can appreciate where they’re coming from, freak out. Start hitting kerbs as they look over their shoulder. Should really use the rearview. Should keep the road in their peripheral vision.
Sometimes I follow men. I imagine they’re my friends. Got beat up once. A deep cut under my right eye, lying on top of a big red bulge. Ely sat on the wall outside our colonial that day, arm round Sheila. Said I could look after myself better. Maybe take up boxing. Maybe start with some exercise. I thought he could do better if he lied with Adele.
We ate together one night, a rare occurrence. For the first time I realized how my house had not evolved from the 70s. Brown surrounded me. I even wore it.
“Brother, I love you …” he said.
I looked up from my dry chicken and potatoes. Should really add sauce to this, I had pondered. The “love” distracted me.
“… but you’re not bringing in the money. It might be time to move out.”
I think I felt my forehead crease. Just a little.
Sheila’s dead eyes, also brown I now noticed, told me I could leave the table. I stayed put.
Two weeks later I’m following this one man. Had a friendly face. A face that didn’t judge. Had a look I could relax with. Kept my eyes on him all the way to the suburbs. He parked, got out. Nice round here. Flowering trees, well-tended front gardens, nicely maintained fences. Undoubtedly decent property prices. Nice place, so surely a nice man.
Didn’t see the dog run out.
Watched it lay there in the rearview.
Then I didn’t see the man I’d been following. Until I saw him roll down my back window.
Foot down. The tire squeal wouldn’t help anonymity. The rearview told me he wouldn’t get up, even with … witnesses … helping him.
I got close to home, still shaking. Noted Ely and Sheila in t-shirts and shorts, sat on the wall at the middle of our T-road’s crossbar.
Outside my house.
They heard my tires. They saw my front end hurtle at them. Drugs must have slowed them. They only moved when I hit them at sixty.