The next few days were more of the same, which is to say the main activity was getting Claire stoned, which she seemed to enjoy very much. Claire with her inhibitions down and her mortality looming had a lot of emotions and emotional energy. Sometimes that meant she was charming to the point of hyperactivity and sometimes she went on rants about my father, or topics like… nuclear energy? (I know.)
I woke up on the morning of my 24th birthday with dry mouth and a stuffed-up head. What I should have done was get up, hydrate, and take a hot shower.
What I did was pull the blankets over my head and go back to sleep.
Later I heard the sounds of breakfast (or was it lunch?) but I wasn’t hungry. Even the scent of coffee being brewed wasn’t enough to get me out of bed. I just didn’t want to move. Or I couldn’t move, it’s kind of hard to tell which.
Some of the time I was awake and staring at the ceiling and some of the time I dozed. I woke up from one of the bouts of dozing to voices murmuring outside my door. Flip and Claire.
A few minutes later Flip knocked and then stuck his head in. “You alive?”
“Yeah. But if I wasn’t, that joke wouldn’t be funny.”
He was carrying a mug of coffee and he set it down on the shelf next to the bed. “Jokes are ways of coping with our fears.”
I sat up. “If that were true there would be a lot more jokes about cancer.”
“I bet if you spend any time on a cancer ward, you’ll find out just how many there are.”
“This conversation is not cheering me up.” I looked at the coffee mug. “For me?”
“Of course it’s for you.” He shook his head slightly. “When did you say Ziggy was getting here?”
“He wasn’t sure. He said he was working on it.” I took a sip of the coffee and felt more human instantly. “Wow, you made it sweet.”
“I made sugar syrup so I could pack more in.” He pulled the bandanna off his head and scratched. “I think I’m going to shave my head again. It’s been a while.”
“Um, great?” I wasn’t sure why he was telling me that other than there wasn’t a lot to talk about. “Just don’t get near me with the clippers.”
“Ha, don’t worry on that score.” He looked out the tiny window at the car port. “I’m going to try to convince Claire to let me even out hers, too. She’s got uneven patches.”
“But is she going to even admit those patches exist?” I said. “Or are you going to have to have a fifteen-minute long negotiation around the subject until she lets you do it, all the while denying that it’s necessary?”
Flip didn’t answer that, not directly. He sat down on the edge of the bed and when I had finished most of the coffee, he said, “I think you’re depressed.”
“What makes you think that?”
“You literally haven’t gotten out of bed.”
“Like I have somewhere to be?”
“Yeah, you have somewhere to be. We’re taking you out for your birthday.”
“Me and Claire and Chief. Claire says there’s a steakhouse you like.”
There was a steakhouse she liked is what that meant. I hadn’t realized she liked the place enough to go back. “It’s all right. Are we sure she’s up to eating steak?”
“She said something about creamed spinach and chocolate mousse.”
“Yep. So get your clothes on. I figure we’ll leave in about two hours.”
He took the empty mug and left the room and then I just sat there staring at my hands where they were lying in my lap on top of the light blue and white checker-pattern comforter. I felt awake but getting out of bed was still a leap I wasn’t ready to make.
Flip came back in after an hour with a folded towel and travel bottle of shampoo. He put them on the bottom of the bed without a word and walked back out again.
All right. I felt bad that I was making him go through that kind of effort. It’s one thing when you’re on the road and you hire people to support you and make sure you’re fed, watered, medicated, transported, etc. It’s another when a friend has to do it just because they care.
Thus guilt-tripped I got in the shower.
(Bruce is a Jersey guy, after all -d)