You and Everything After(2)By: Ginger Scott
Finally alone, I stop everything for a few minutes, pushing myself to the window so I can watch everyone going about their lives outside. Pressing my forehead to the windowpane, I watch a couple say goodbye; the guy picks the chick up and swings her around, and then they kiss like they’re in love. You can tell the difference. My kisses are all about using and avoiding. They’re great in the moment, but I don’t taste anything, except maybe vodka or Tequila—or, sometimes, smoke. I don’t feel anything, other than my need to get off. But that kiss—the one happening two stories down from my window—is so foreign. It’s about love and happiness and the future.
My phone buzzes on the bed, so I snap myself out of my torture and put on my mask. It’s Nate. “What’s up, man?”
“Hey, I’m picking you up from the airport. Parents are staying put,” he says. “Anything special you want since you’re getting in late?”
“Yeah, to hit the strip club on our way home,” I say, half kidding.
“Right, so a bunch of singles then. Got it,” he says, without even as much as a laugh. We’re playing this straight, like we always do. I love my brother. He’s my best friend. But Nate’s not strong enough to bear the weight of everything that happened to me. So I finish making plans with him on the phone, and when I hang up, I spend the next two hours packing the rest of my things—a job that would take anyone else fifteen minutes.
Before I leave, I push myself back to the window to watch my life that should have been happen outside, but only for few more seconds. With the heaviest bag on my lap, and the roller behind me, I make my way to the hallway and ask another student to help me wheel the roller to the taxi out front. Once the door is shut and we’re on our way to the airport, I forget it all—the dream, the scene out my window, the last four years at Florida State; it’s all meaningless. And so is everything that’s to come. I’m just going through the motions. You know…being strong.
“Come on, princess. Get your ass up! It’s time for workouts. Early bird gets the worm, and all that shit,” I practically sing to my brother, whose head is buried under two pillows. He’s still nursing himself a little after our late night. Nate’s not used to my schedule. I’ve never needed much sleep, a side effect of constantly waking up in pain—however real, or not, it may be. I pretty much filled my undergrad years with party after party, and I still finished with a 3.8 grade point average.
“Gahhhhhhhhh,” Nate bellows, his voice muffled by his mattress as he throws the top pillow at me, hitting me in the chest. “What are you, part robot? How are you not tired?”
“I’m just that awesome. Awesome people don’t need to sleep as much as you mere mortals,” I say, tugging the blanket from his body to really piss him off.
“All right! I’m up. I’m up,” he says, pushing his fists into his eyes and rubbing like he did when he was a kid. He’s still that kid to me—probably always will be. “The team doesn’t even start workouts until nine anyway, asshole!”
He’s complaining, but he’s still getting dressed. I push Nate. I push him because he takes it, which means he secretly likes being pushed. And I push him because the kid is seriously talented. I was good…before I got hurt. I maybe could have played college ball, probably for some junior college back home. But Nate, he could go all the way, as in big leagues, and stay there—for years.
“Hey, that’s awesome asshole, thank you very much. Now get your shoes on so we can get our miles in,” I say, pushing into the hallway to wait for him.
We go five miles every morning—Nate takes the treadmill at the gym, and I work the hand cycle. My body, at least what’s left of it, is something I can control; so weightlifting and fitness have kind of become an obsession. School has always been easy, which is probably why the partying never seems to get in my way. But throwing myself in the pool, and making my arms pound the water for a mile or two is a challenge—I need those challenges to remind me that I’m still alive.