Will You Sit With Me Tonight?
You aren’t surprised when you receive the call. It’s Piper. She’s found your brother. He’s holed up in that old abandoned warehouse where the junkies get high and snack on stale chips together, she tells you. You don’t hesitate. You pick up your cell phone and car keys and get ready to head out the door when your fiancé, Lennon, comes downstairs from the bedroom. He’s still wearing his pajamas even though it’s nearly three in the afternoon. You can’t just keep picking up his messes, he says. When you insist that you have to go after him, because after all he is your little brother (even if he’s only younger by nine minutes), he hands you his old Swiss Army pocket knife. Better safe than sorry, right? he says as you grip it tightly in your fist.
When you pull up to the old building you notice right away that there is no one in sight. You grip your cellphone in your hand and feel the slight weight of the pocket knife tucked away in your coat. When you step inside, you know right away that you won’t need it. The door is guarded by a guy in his late twenties who is passed out, snoring heavily. You wrinkle your nose at a stench that you can’t quite place. Rotting meat? You jump at the sound of crinkling paper only to realize that the floor is littered with chip bags and candy wrappers.
It takes you five minutes to find your brother. Charlie is sprawled across a dingy grey mattress. You kneel next to him and poke him in the ribs. He jumps. Come on, time to go home. He responds with a lazy smile and a feeble, Charlotte? You roll your eyes. Come on Charlie, enough of this shit.
You manage to half drag him out to your car. He doesn’t make any attempt to pick up his feet. Charlie, you need to walk. His head lolls into the crook of your neck and he jokingly snores in your ear before giggling like a five-year-old. You shove him into the car but don’t bother with buckling him up. He’s so high that at this point that if you got into an accident, he probably wouldn’t notice. Where are we going? he mumbles. You wrinkle your nose as you catch a whiff of his odor. I’m taking you to my house. He giggles. Is Lennon home? Are you guys still getting married? You ignore him and start the car. You check the gas tank and it’s low. You look over at Charlie and he’s fast asleep. You decide you can risk a trip to the gas station.
You lock the doors when you get out to pay for your gas. While inside, you also buy a bag of Doritos, two bottles of water and then, after some thought, a Slim Jim, because it’s Lennon’s favorite. You return to the car, climb in, but Charlie is gone. He’s unlocked the doors and walked out. You sigh and scratch your head, debating on whether or not you should look for him. Damn fool, you mutter under your breath. But Charlie hasn’t gotten far. Here he is, strolling down the road. You wind down the window. Charlie, what the hell are you doing? He pretends not to hear you. You drive slowly beside him. Charlie, get in the car.
I’m not going with you, he shouts angrily. You tell him to stop being ridiculous. You tell him to get in the car. You tell him that he’s making a scene. He ignores so you stop the car. You storm over and grab him by the arm. He fights you at first, but you’re stronger than he is. He gets in the car and slumps over in the passenger seat.
When you return home, Lennon is seated on the couch. He now has on sweatpants and no shirt. He gets up as you walk in with Charlie. Hey Charlie, he says. Charlie ignores him and looks at you. He says, I want to go to sleep. You nod to him and guide him upstairs to a spare bedroom. You’re not sure if he can shower by himself, so you hand him a package of baby wipes and tell him to do the best he can for now.
He looks down at the package of baby wipes in his hand and then back up at you. You know exactly what he’s thinking and you know that he’ll say it without thinking twice. I’ll be downstairs, you say, and leave the room as he inhales to speak. You stand in the hallway with your back to the door of the spare bedroom. The hallway is dim and tinted blue from the sun trying to beam through the tightly shut curtains. Across from you is another bedroom. You know that behind the door, the walls are half painted yellow. You remember the time when you and Lennon went out to the pick paint together and you held his hand and with your free hand rubbed your belly. You bite your lip as you rub your belly now, but what was there before is now gone. The sun has moved now and the hallway is dim. From downstairs you can hear the television. Lennon must be watching rugby again. You glance at the door and decide you don’t want to think about the memories locked away behind it anymore so you don’t. You go downstairs to where Lennon is lounging on the couch. You go to put your head on his shoulder but as you do he flinches slightly. He tries to cover up his mistake by asking you how Charlie is. You mutter, fine, as you get up off the couch. You decide to take a nap. As you walk away from Lennon, you hear him sigh. You know he’s probably rubbing his temples.
You’ve been laying across your bed for about five minutes when there is a weak knock on the door. It’s Charlie. He enters the room and sits on the edge of the bed. He smells better now, almost like a baby thanks to the wipes. He looks at you and his eyes are sad. I’m sorry, Char. His voice is weak and waivers as if he is going to start crying. You remember when you were younger and Charlie would cry. His face would crumple into little pieces and he would suck in obnoxious hiccuping breaths. He always cried when you were little. When you were the reason for his tears you would pat his head and tell him to shut up because cool kids don’t cry and you refused to be seen with a boy who still cried. He would stop but still take in those hiccuping breaths. You reach out and tentatively pat his hand.
Why do you do this Charlie? He looks down on his hands, which are shaking ever so slightly. He doesn’t respond to your question. You observe him. It’s like looking at the male version of yourself in the mirror. His blue eyes and red curls mirror yours exactly. You remember how when you were younger, kids would tease you and call you both leprechauns. Your mother would tell you to ignore them, while your father would shout in his thick Irish accent that you should be proud of your roots. Charlie’s face is pale and gaunt. There are faint beads of sweat across his forehead and his lower lip quivers slightly. I’m sorry, Charlie whispers softly. I’m sorry, Charlotte. You’ve heard this all before. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. It just happened. I promise I’ll do better. You rub your temples.
You should rest, you tell him. You know what comes next. Charlie’s eyes widen. Will you sit with me tonight? You nod. You always sit with him, even though Lennon doesn’t like sleeping without you. Charlie goes back to the spare bedroom and you lay your head on the pillows. The fabric is cool on your face and downstairs you hear Lennon yelling at the television. You wish he were paying more attention to you than the TV.
When you wake up, the scent of garlic fills your nose. Lennon is downstairs making dinner. You go down to the kitchen and you are surprised to find Charlie sitting at the table with a glass of water. Lennon turns as you enter the room. He waltzes over and presses his lips to your forehead. Did you have a good nap? he asks. You nod. How are you feeling, Charlie? you ask your brother. He manages a faint smile and takes a tiny sip of his water. You glance at the clock. It’s 6:38. Charlie, what time was it when you took your last hit? Around 2:45, he responds. Four hours. You nod and sit down next to him. All three of you eat in silence.