Her chest was rising just as it was falling. The key, in her hand. The car, right there. Breath, hot on the back of her teeth. No license.
The brother, up on the porch, watching, his face relaxed beyond the register of emotion. One finger, then two into the yellow jar of goo he cradled in his arms. Slipped them into his mouth, lips folding out and she remembers sucking fingers, but it was only a stale memory.
A man walks by with his dog. It was a short leash. She wanted to scream at him, or at the brother or at someone because that’s what she had always been good at. She could make anyone cry, and if they cried she could smile. But not here. No license to speak.
She’d come, some words on her side and no voice strong enough to speak them. She’d come all for the hope that a man she had once loved had not changed. Though she had changed. Her hope had never gone away. But when she arrived he had not been waiting for her like he promised. His brother had been in his place.
At first she thought he has simply grown a beard, maybe let himself go in her absence. Their faces were so alike even after he spoke, and even after she surveyed the clothes he worse, and even after he led her to the car in silence, a bitter look on his lips, she felt a little unsure.
They drove in silence. She spoke a few words of greeting in his language. He said nothing in response. His beard was an old mans’. It was hiding something.
“Scott… going… country… all shit… I… you… fucking shit.”
She stared ahead, but didn’t like reading the signs. It made her head hurt. She looked down at her phone. No service. At least she could read the menus.
He pulled the car over at a drugstore with a green sign. He said nothing, sighed, and left the car.
She stared and waited. Her arms nestled closer to her chest. The sky was overcast and she felt it would rain. Then a drumming at the window.
Her tongue was dry. Her whole self was in her throat.
A man wrapped in chains was rapping his knuckles against the glass. His long gray hair covered his eyes, but not the volcanic landscape of his cheeks. He spit and then beat the window with his elbow. She held her breath.
“Lollipop! Lollipop!” he belted before stumbling away.
He fell to the ground at the brother’s feet. The brother was now carrying a small plastic bag. He stared at the man in chains and then put his hands together, fingers pointed up towards the sky. He smiled. A real smile. Like he’d just bought a new pair of shoes. He smiled all the way home.
She refused the food. It was green and wet. It reminded her of the countryside. The soup was purple, thick, lumpy. Bled warts. She’d watched him pour some yellow gue into it. Watched him lick his fingers. She sat in front of the food in silence while he forked the mulch into his mouth.
She felt an ache in her heart. The brother’s eyes were the very ones she’d fallen in love with. They were a crystalline green. They were unending. She’d fallen in long ago, and now she was staring at them again. Only how could she if she were still inside? Her eyes tickled with a burn. The forehead, the nose, it was all the same.
He grunted, cleared his throat violently like a cat and then rose. He picked up her fork and lifted a pile to her face. Around in circles. She looked to the side and a soft cry escaped her lips. She wanted her phone. She wanted to talk to her friends. She wished she could tell someone. She wished she could tell him. The brother laughed and walked away.
“Stupid,” he said.
He disappeared behind a door at the end of a long hallway. The old wooden clock above stopped ticking. Soon a low wailing could be heard from behind the door. The wooden floor, so modern, so polished, creaked.
She stood and the chair reluctantly slid away from her, groaning. She heard a pounding.
There was a knock on the door. She stayed low and approached the window above. It was a man with long curly hair, looking up at her expectantly with a piece of paper gripped in both hands. It read, “Is Scott home?”
Strangely there was a stack of paper and a marker next to the window. She carefully wrote, “No” and held it up to the window. They continued to stare at each other for a short time. He then jotted something down and held it up.
“Everything all right?”
She continued to hold up her paper. She knew she should hold her breath, but what was the point. He threw his thumb up and walked away.
She sat on the couch, thinking she had better wait. She talked to herself in the words she knew. It should have eased her heart, but there was no one to receive them. They even sounded strange here in this glossy home. The wailing stopped and the brother returned. He didn’t look at her. He faced away and kneeled on the floor. He whispered and bowed his head to the floor. He rocked back and forth on his head until finally he lifted himself off the floor and stood on his head, still whispering.
Then he came down and his face was red, and his eyes were puffy. He’d been crying. And she felt nothing. It was a mask.
“Go away,” she said, and she ran down the stairs to the door. She grabbed the keys and ran out to the car. “Where is Scott!”
And her chest was heaving. And she didn’t care that she had no license or that she knew nothing of the town. She wanted to go. But where she wanted to go no car could take her, and her breathing grew soggy and the lines of her face brittle.
And the brother stood up on the porch, watching her with a face no words in her tongue could describe, his beautiful eyes finding a gleam under the porch light’s glow.
And a man with a dog walked by, staring. His dog heaved against the leash, but the man just smiled. She looked up at the brother and his eyes latched onto her heart. She was sure they were the same as the brother’s, that they were only a mask. They had never been anything more. And now here she was.