Authors: Todd Hasak-Lowy
Â “And so that's the deal, you know? Because even if it didn't really happen then, it's what happens. It's going to happen. At some point you're cut loose. At some point they leave you somewhere and don't come back. Pretty much, anyway. And so the key thing about growing up is just coming to terms with that, you know? And I think that's why I'm okay deep down with everything, because I figured it out at such a young age, so things just don't faze me the way they do other people. Everything is going to be okay, even when the worst thing seems to happen.
Â “I'm going to get my own place and just, you know, say whatever to Mom and Dad, which, the sooner you can figure out how to do, the better, trust me. It's not like they were the worst parents or anything, but at this point they're doing us a favor with all the divorce bullshit and her lame-ass California and Dad being whatever the hell Dad is at this point.”
Overdue Communications That Take Place After Nate Goes to Piss
Â Darren checks his e-mail while walking toward the water.
Something from Travelocity. Almost deletes it, figuring it's spam. But decides to open it instead.
Rachel bought him a ticket. To Minneapolis. December tenth to twelfth.
Maybe if he commits to eating better and exercising regularly he could still become an astronaut. Or maybe regular people will be able to go into outer space in the future, though he sort of doubts it.
Â He calls Rachel.
“Is this the birthday boy?”
“You're lucky it's your birthday, Mr. Impossible to Get Ahold Of.”
“Sorry. Crazy day.”
“Later. Forget it.”
“Hey, did you get my e-mail?”
“Uh-huh. Yeah. Thanks. Thanks a lot. That'sâ”
“Were you surprised?”
“We're going to have the best time. Hopefully it won't be freezing here already, even though it probably will be. I don't how we're going to fit in everything I've planned. And you won't believe it, but that cellist, the one whoâ”
“Can weÂ .Â .Â .”
“Rachel, do you think, I meanÂ .Â .Â .”
“Can we just be friends?”
“.Â .Â .”
“I'm sorry. Shit. I know that's, like, crazily lame, to say that. âCan we just be friends.' I can't believe I just said it. But look, I mean it. I do. I want to be friends. You're great. I justâ”
“Oh my God. I'm so stupidâ”
“I can't believe I bought you a ticket. I can't believe I actâ”
“No. Don't say that. Don't. Please. You're, like, I don't know, you treat me way better than anyone I know. You do. Way better than I deserve. I have no idea how I would have made it through the past few months without you. I'm totally, one-hundred-percent serious. Like, I owe you for that. And I really do like you a lot, seriously. But I feel like a dick pretending thatâ”
“No, I mean it.”
“Okay. I get it.”
“So can we still be friends? Can we?”
“Rachel, look, you might be my only friend. Who I can actually talk to.”
“ButÂ .Â .Â . I think I'm not meant for you. Or the other way around. You know, in that way. I don't know if I even believe in people being meant for each other. But maybe I do. Please be my friend still.”
“I should go, Darren.”
“Bye, Darren. Happy birthday.”
And do they have rockets that don't ever return to Earth? Would his odds be any better if he told them he'd be willing to go on one of those?
Sentences Ben Zwiren Has Recently Sent to Darren
Â Can I give you some advice?
Â Don't ask people for advice.
Â Advice is overrated.
Â You're the one who's got to figure out what you should do.
Â So figure it out and then do what you should do.
Â Okay, yeah, I guess that was advice, but you know what I mean.
Â Good luck, man.
Fingers That Intertwine as Part of the “Mountain Climber's Grip” Darren Initiates to Lift Nate up off Their Rock, This Grip Being Something the Jacobs Brothers Have Employed and Celebrated for Years
Â Darren's right thumb
Â Nate's right thumb
Â Darren's index finger
Â Nate's index finger
Â Darren's middle finger
Â Nate's middle finger
Â Darren's ring finger
Â Nate's ring finger
Â Darren's pinkie
Â Nate's pinkie
Members of Storied Brazilian Duo Who Escort Them Down into the City
Darren drives. Competently. Better than competently.
Â & VINICIUS
“Say anything about the music and you walk the rest of the way.”
“Me?” Nate asks. “What would I say? You're your father's son, what's so wrong about that?”
“You're such a douche bag sometimes.”
“You say that like it's a bad thing.”
They drive on for a while.
“Damn,” Nate says. “These guys are good. Have you been intentionally hiding this shit from me?”
“Maybe.” Darren might actually be smiling. “Maybe.”
Signs That It Wasn't a Particularly Good Idea for His Parents to Drive Downtown Together, or Even Be in the Same Place at the Same Time Ever Again
Â They're both clearly waiting for Darren and Nate, but his mom is in her car, while his dad waits just inside the restaurant.
Â When Darren and Nate walk up, his dad exits the restaurant and his mom gets out of the car, so that soon the four of them are standing more or less in the same place. And Darren is certain he can feel a genuine electrical charge of some sort running between his parents, who both look remarkably unlike the people they looked like when they were still married only eighteen months earlier. But it's not an electrical charge like the kind people talk about when they're in love or attracted to each other. It's like some kind of short circuit or live wire the two of them form. Darren can feel it in his legs, to the point he's grateful to be wearing shoes with rubber soles.
Â His mom was definitely crying in the past ten minutes, and it's possible his dad was as well.
Â When his dad, trying to smile, welcomes Darren first by asking, “How was traffic?” Darren for some reason steals a look at his mom before answering. And she's trying to smile too but is doing an even worse job of it than his dad, because no matter what he says to his dad, he'll be greeting him before his mom, or because the person who gave birth to him is not going to be joining them for his sixteenth birthday dinner, or because in two weeks she's going to be living two thousand miles away.
Or maybe because of all those reasons.
“Fine,” Darren says, looking right into his father's soft eyes, trying to say “fine” in a way that also might mean,
I'm sorry about what I said on the phone before, and I promise never to say anything like that again, but that would be a way easier promise to keep if you at least tried to hide your freakiness just a little from time to time. Not the gay freakiness, which isn't freaky, seriously, it isn't. Just all the other stuff. But so, I don't know, if you could just be a little patient and a little less weird while I figure that out and what to do about it, that would be great.
There's a chance his dad understands. A chance.
Â Hugging each of them feels like some kind of test or performance or both, and the only way he feels like he can pass the test or get approval from the audience is by making sure neither hug is anything special, which means just sort of squeezing both of them really briefly, which in both cases means kind of underhugging his parents, both of whom were clearly expecting and maybe even needing more.
And then he just stands there, in between his underhugged parents, who each place a hand on one of his shoulders at precisely the same moment. Like they had choreographed the thing before his arrival. His shoulders, they begin to smolder. As does everything in between.
Ingredients of a Fight That Ignites All at Once, Such That Darren Isn't Sure Ten Seconds Later If This Is Exactly How It Started, but It More or Less Went Something Like This
Â Mom: So I'll pick you guys up around nine thirty.
Â Dad: Why doesn't he just call you when we're finishing up?
Â Mom: How about ten o'clock, then?
Â Mom: Ten thirty?
Â Darren: Uh.
Â Mom: Look, call me when you're ready to be picked up, okay?
Â Dad: Brenda, why don't I just drop him off with you once we're finished? Where are you going to be?
Â Mom: Whatever, Howard. Do what you want.
Â Nate: Ridiculous.
Â Dad: Nate, please.
Â Nate: Dad, please.
Â Dad: Please, Nate, I'm asking you.
Â Nate: And what, exactly, are you asking me?
Â Mom: Cut it out.
Â Nate: No, I want to know. Tell me.
Â Mom: Nate.
Â Nate: Tell me.
Â Mom: Nate. Cut it out!
Â Dad: Please don't yell, Brenda.
Â Mom: Are you serious?
Â Dad: Yes, Brenda, I'm asking you, please don't yell.
Â Mom: You need to grow up. You do.
Â Nate: And you need to move to California already.
Â Mom: You know he quit his job today? You know he can'tâyou can't even hold a job as a fucking pizza delivery boy!
Â Dad: What happened?
Â Nate: It was a shitty job.
Â Dad: What happened?
Â Mom: Tell him, Nate.
Â Mom: Go ahead, tell him.
Â Dad: Brenda, stop.
Â Ray: Howard? What's going on here?
Â Nate: Well, hello, Ray.
Â Mom: Tell him, Nate!
Â Dad: Brenda!
Â Ray: What is this? You can'tâ
Â Mom: Ray, this doesn't concern you.
Â Dad: Brenda, stop!
Â Ray: Howard.
Â Nate: Hey, Ray. Could I ask you to, uh, fuck off for a few minutes?
Perspectives from Which Darren Feels He's Witnessing This Fight
Â That of a mute stranger.
Â That of a five-year-old immigrant boy unable to understand anything but everyone's tone of voice.
Â That of an otherwise healthy person who just finished having open-heart surgery but is presently waiting to have his chest closed back up.
Â That of an invisible sixteen-year-old.
Â That of a person slowly backing away from the scene.
Storefronts Darren Walks Past Until He Can No Longer Hear Them
Â Bryon's Liquor
Â Suds Coin Laundromat
Â Saturn CafÃ©
Â Fifth Third Bank
Numbers Darren Dials Manually
Rings Darren Hears
Â The first
Â The second
Â The third
Â The fourth, but only in his head, because someone actually answers before this day can get any worse
“.Â .Â .”
“Yeah, I'm home.”
“Like, Chicago home?”
“For how long?”
“.Â .Â .”