DreamsPart II: Deja Vu
Jay stepped into the bar with a sense of deja vu. It had been three years since the last time he had seen Veronica. His face was ruddier; his hands shook sporadically with nerves or insomnia. Once again, he was the first to arrive. He surveyed the room, studying the two other patrons and noting the exits, and took a booth in a corner that faced the door. By the time Veronica arrived, almost an hour late, he was in an obvious state of anxiety. He stood when he saw that she was alone.
“What the fuck, Veronica? Where is it? Give it to me now.”
Veronica paused mid-step and smiled. “Well, it’s nice to see you too, Jay. Don’t worry he’s waiting in the car. This isn’t exactly the kind of place that you bring a kid to.”
Jay shook his head. “Right, of course. Can we just get this over with? My nerves can’t take this.”
“Sure.” She turned and left the bar. “Since when do you have nerves?”
Jay chose not to answer though he scowled at the back of her head. Instead, he hurried out after her. The night air was muggy and Jay broke out into a clammy sweat. Then he saw Veronica’s run-down gray Toyota. There was a small face pressed against the back window watching them approach. She had come through with her promise.
“My god,” he breathed.
Veronica smiled with something like pride. “He’s beautiful, right?”
“How old is he?”
“A little over three. His name’s Nathan.”
They stood next to the car and studied the child. “How did you get him?”
Veronica laughed. “What do you mean? He’s mine; I had him!”
“Yeah but, have you been taking care of him? Where does he live?”
“In one of those government facilities. You know, the kind where we grew up. They gave me monthly visitations though. I don’t think that they’ll be surprised when he doesn’t come back. Things like this happen all the time. Do you want him now? I have places to go and Sand to do.”
“You’re still using? This didn’t change you? He didn’t change anything?”
“It sure as hell changed me. I realized that everyone was right. Responsibility sucks. I don’t want to be a mother.”
“Not wanting to be mother and this are two totally different things Vee. How can you still do Sand when you know where it comes from?”
“Kids don’t need their fucking dreams anyway. You remember what it was like living in the orphanage. As bad as it was I never felt prepared for adult life. I had hope. Fucking hope. Seriously, it’ll be better this way. At least he’ll be doing something. One day, he won’t have any dreams left. Maybe he’ll do better at adult life than I have. You can’t have hope without any dreams. Look, are you going to take him or not? If you’ve gone soft then I can just move on.”
“No, don’t say that. I’ll take him.”
Veronica opened the backdoor and coaxed Nathan out. He stood, pressed tight against his mother’s leg, and stared at Jay.
Jay avoided looking at him. “Do you have a leash or something for him?”
“What? He’ll hold your hand.” She reached into the backseat. “Here’s his stuff. He’s allergic to tomatoes so don’t feed him any; you can’t afford the hospital bill. He can’t sleep without a nightlight. It should be in the outside pocket.” She knelt down and ruffled Nathan’s light brown hair. “Don’t give Jay any trouble, okay?”
“Okay, mama,” Nathan’s voice was soft and serious.
Veronica stood up. “Don’t get greedy and take too much at once, Jay, or you’ll burn him out.”
Jay nodded and took the boy’s hand. They stood on the sidewalk together and watched Veronica get into her car and drive away.
“Come on, kid.” Jay tugged on Nathan’s hand and started walking towards the bus stop. He wished Veronica had brought a leash. He was going to get sick of holding the kid’s hand.
It took over two hours for Jay to get Nathan home. The bus ride was fine but not the normally easy two-mile walk from the stop. They began the walk home with Jay tugging on Nathan’s hand, trying to make him keep up. The boy kept stumbling though and Jay had to stop and figure out how to carry him. It was past midnight when they finally arrived at Jay’s apartment. Jay sat Nathan down on the couch and turned the cartoons on for him, which he watched listlessly with drooping eyes.
“Hey kid, are you hungry? Do you want some soup?”
“I want noodles,” Nathan mumbled not taking his eyes off of the TV.
Jay cooked him some spaghetti noodles that he found in the back of his cupboard. The boy ate half of them before falling asleep with the fork still in his hand.
“Hey, wake up.” Jay shook the boy until he opened his eyes. “Come into the kitchen, I want to get a good look at you.” Jay turned on the fluorescent overhead light. “Open your eyes really wide”
Nathan opened his eyes as wide as he could. They were watery with exhaust and fear. The irises were murky green with light gold flecks. The pupils were deep and wide. Perfect. Jay was nervous. He hadn’t actually cultivated his last Sand supply. Like any small time drug-dealer he had gotten it from someone higher up the food chain. He had seen the girl it came from once. She was maybe nine at the time and lying on a dirty concrete floor with her eyes darting back and forth, watching something in her head. She had been a good dreamer, full of hope. Jay seemed to remember that her eyes had been green too, but color didn’t matter. Those large, scared pupils were perfect for extraction. She burned out a couple of months after that. No more dreams meant no more drug.
Nathan blinked a couple of times then sat down on the kitchen floor. Can I go watch cartoons now?”
“I think that you should probably go to bed now. Come on.”
Jay led the boy into the bedroom. There was a cot in it that he told Nathan to lay down on. “I’ll get your nightlight in a minute. You go ahead and close your eyes. In the morning you can tell me all about your dreams.”
Nathan snored softly as Jay left the room closing the door behind them. He stood with his hand on the doorknob taking deep breaths. The kid scared him. Jay barely remembered his own childhood. Even if he wanted to, he couldn’t back out now. He had to cultivate the kid. He had made big promises to dangerous men. Jay spent the rest of the night on the couch restlessly trying to sleep.
| COPYRIGHT 2006-2011
Portland Fiction Project
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED