Albert Finds Jed

I hung up and waited. A half hour went by. I went into the donut shop and ordered a coffee and sat down. There was a cute Hispanic girl behind the counter, a little overweight, but cute. The room was overdone, as all Dunkin Donuts are, with an orange motif of plastic artificiality. The stench from the donuts made it difficult to breathe, and I longed for the girl as I sat there, but I had no words to explain it to her and just watched her wipe and wipe and wipe. It is the lot of man to wipe and wipe and wipe. I was doing nothing but the same in New York City, trying to wipe the world of the fruits of its sins by finding the uncleanly source to clean it. Now I was in Fort Lee, New Jersey, most likely being stood up by Helen Capowitz of Moxy Priestess, who probably knew the truth about my brother Jed, and I didn’t care anymore.
Each minute that passed, thirty-five, then forty, then an hour, I lost my sense of care, the care that holds you up, like the donut girl, when you wipe somebody else’s counter for the equivalence of its crumbs. I could have called back, but I didn’t. I sat there for two hours, knowing what Helen’s decision meant until I couldn’t take it anymore.
“Do you want to…” I couldn’t finish the sentence, because I didn’t know what I was trying to say to the girl.
“I’m sorry?” she said, moving up to the counter slowly. She had a name tag that said Liza.
“Do you want to take a break?” I asked her.
“I’m all alone here.”
“I know. I’m sorry.”
She didn’t say anything, and looked at me in such a way that I knew right then that I was in bad shape. It seems that all of it was about me now. Somehow I was wrong. Back home everybody knew that Jed was dead except for me, and this girl somehow understood that now I understood something about my life that I hadn’t understood before I walked in, until I had asked her if she wanted to take a break. I understood that that was all Jed had ever wanted to do, too.
“I can take a short one,” she said.
She took off her apron and filled two cups of coffee.
“Cream and sugar?”
“Yes, please,” I said.
She brought them over to the table and sat down opposite me.
“Stood up, huh?”
“Yeah.”
She just drank from her coffee and looked out the window. Neither of us spoke.
“Well, I better get back,” she said.
“Thanks,” I said.

I had to go then. I threw away my cup and walked outside, adjusting my pack on my back and looking around at the night that held no bed for me, no resting place. My funds were low and I could probably stay in a motel, but there were none around.
“Baby bro.”
A chill went through my very face and up my shoulder blades. I turned around. Jed stood there wearing an old cowboy hat beside the Priestess’ little red Mustang.
“Jed?”
He laughed and flicked away his cigarette and walked towards me.
“Yeah…Jed,” he said, making fun of the way he said it.
Then he hugged me.
“What the fuck, man,” I said, and I couldn’t help it, but I started crying like a baby and couldn’t stop. All the hurt inside for having lost him came up on me and I wanted to kill him, to punch him in the fucking face for doing it to me, but I couldn’t, because I loved him too goddamned much.
“You fuck!” I screamed.
“I’m sorry, bro. I’m sorry, baby. Don’t cry, man. Don’t cry, Albert.”
And I knew he meant it, that he was sorry for making me look like a fool for all those years when everybody said he was dead and I knew he wasn’t, because how could Jed just go and leave me like that, and mama, and everybody, and just fall off the world and not be gone, and not tell anybody because he thinks his pain more important than anybody elses? I stopped crying and wiped the tears off my face and looked at him and to my surprise Jed was smiling, his eyes moist.
“You fuck,” I said again, and I started to laugh even as I cried.
“Yeah, I think you could fairly call me that, Al. I am a fuck. Always been a fuck. You’re fair,” he started laughing with me and our cheeks were side by side and neither one of us knew whose tears belonged to who. My head felt light and I thought I might need to sit down. Jed took me inside and I sat down on a chair. The girl came over and wiped my face off. I couldn’t believe it. It made me a Dunkin Donuts fan for life. Jed sat down across from me. Helen stood by the door. She looked good, wearing something yuppie-ish that cost a lot of money. I thought, oh shit, and was exhausted and numb.
Jed looked at me from under his cowboy hat. Something had happened to his eyes. They were all wrong because they were all right. No more Richard Ramirez, no more tight knot holding him in like a girdle holds in a woman’s belly. I was just confused, holding back from saying anything because I thought that if I did it would be unfair and chase Jed away again because everybody knew Jed was scared and that’s why he did heroin in the first place. I felt I needed to be strong, but sitting there looking at his eyes from under his hat I thought, Jesus, I’m the one who needs help now. Look at me. I’m the one. He looks fine. And he did. He wore a silver earring and feather band around his hat like some fucking Stevie Ray Vaughn or something. His clothes were clean and he wasn’t stoned.

I looked at him, and realized it right then, too, that I was looking at him from the place that he used to look at the world when he was all fucked up. In other words, I could barely see him for what he had become. I had gotten to the place that I needed to get to in order to find him and yet it wasn’t the same place that he was at anymore. I hated him for making me look for him, hated him for doing this to his little brother, for having a little brother at all, and making that little brother love him, yet leaving like that, and not even being dead. I wanted to laugh, but I was too disgusted.
“Why didn’t you call?” I asked.
Jed said nothing.
“Jed, why didn’t you call?” I said again.
Again, Jed turned away. My fist came out so hard from my side that I only knew that I’d punched him after the fact.
“Goddamn you!” I screamed, and I got up and walked out of there, slammed the door of Dunkin Donuts, all the while knowing I loved that girl who had wiped my face, wishing I hadn’t slammed the door, but knowing that Jed would have to come home now.
And he did. And I had enough time to prepare my mother for the visit so that when he finally did show up at our door, with Helen Capowitz driving her red car, and, would you believe it, a baby girl named Minnie, my mama wouldn’t fall down in shock and die. In this way I rescued my family and was able to get serious about my rock opera, Petals.

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Published in: on October 24, 2009 at 5:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

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