ll of It
So Much More
Monday, August 22
"What's up, turkey butt?"
"Aw, you know, just drove thirty hours straight or something like that, I honestly lost track. I haven't slept in what, two, three days? I downed like two dozen Red Bulls and fifteen gallons of coffee. So, the usual I guess."
He laughs. "Dude, I think you might have a little trucker blood in you."
"That's Mother Trucker to you."
He laughs again. "That's awesome! I may have to retire Bright Side and start using Mother Trucker instead."
The conversation is good so far, natural, which is what I was hoping for. After the way Gus and I parted ways in San Diego a few days ago I didn't know what to expect from this call.
Then comes the awkward silence.
We've never had awkward silence. Not in the nineteen years I've known him.
"So. Minnesota, huh?"
"You at Maddie's then?"
"How's that going?" Gus asks.
"It's going." God, this isn't getting any better. He sounds almost bored, but I can hear that he's nervous as hell. I wonder why I haven't heard him light up a cigarette yet. And just like that, I hear his lighter click and the familiar sound of that first long drag. "You should—"
He cuts me off. "I probably better let you go, Bright Side. I just got to Robbie's, and it looks like everyone's already here for a band meeting, and I'm late as usual. They're waiting on me."
I'm disappointed, but I know other people's lives can't stop or be put on hold just because Kate wants it to be so. So, I put on my best smile, and I answer, "Yeah. Sure. Will you be around tomorrow night? I'll call you then."
"I'm planning on going surfing tomorrow after work, but I'll be around." His breathing has evened out, but I know it's because he's concentrating so damn hard on that cigarette, sucking the calm back into his body with the smoke and nicotine.
"Okay. I love you, Gus." We always tell each other I love you. Always have. He grew up hearing it from his mom every five minutes because she meant it. It was natural. I grew up never hearing it from my mother. Never, just the way she meant it. It was natural for her. She meant the indifference. I felt it every day. In my bones. I guess that's why I've always loved hearing it from Gus and his mom, Audrey. It would be weird to end a conversation with them and not say it.
"Love you, too, Bright Side."
I'm staying at Maddie's. Maddie is my aunt; my mother's much younger half-sister. Her much younger half-sister who she never knew existed until they met at my grandfather's (their mutual father's) funeral three years ago. My grandfather was out of the picture for most of my mother's life. He left when she was ten or something. Just disappeared and apparently had another family and everything, then came back into her life a few years before he died. I met him a few times, and I liked him. I couldn't judge him for what he'd done. I didn't know what his life had been like. Anyway, Maddie shows up at the funeral, and my mother has a conniption fit when Maddie announces she's her half-sister. I mean my mother waited a long time to have my sister, Grace, and me. Maybe waited isn't the correct word choice. Grace was an accident, and I was a weak attempt to hold onto a man that didn't want her or us. She was thirty-nine when Grace was born and forty when I came along. Maddie is only twenty-seven now, eight years older than me, which means my mother was thirty-two years older than Maddie. Yeah, you do the math; my grandpa was a horny old man. But again, it's not for me to judge.
So anyway, I have this aunt I never knew existed and barely know except for the one visit she made to stay with us at my mother's house in San Diego for a week. That was two years ago. So, when I heard that I was accepted (and awarded a scholarship) to Grant, a small college in a tiny town by the same name just outside of Minneapolis, I called Maddie and asked her if I could crash at her place for a week before I moved into the dorms and school started. She hesitated like I was asking her for a goddamn kidney, but finally agreed. And now I'm here in her spare bedroom, and it's only been an hour, but I already feel like a guest who's overstayed her welcome.
I unpack my suitcase and put my toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, and razor in the enormous guest bathroom. Maddie has a really nice apartment. I'm not sure about the cost of living here in Minneapolis, but it looks expensive. It's way fancy. I know some people love fancy—whatever floats your boat—but to me, it's overrated. It makes me long for simple. Fancy hides a lot, while simple unapologetically puts it out there for everyone to see. It makes me think about the apartment I had in San Diego and how much I miss it. It was a converted one stall garage that I rented from my mother's old gardener, Mr. Yamashita. Mr. Yamashita outfitted a small bathroom inside so he could rent the space out. The kitchen amounted to mini-refrigerator, a microwave, and a hot plate, but no sink. You washed your dishes in the bathroom. It was small and cramped and dark unless you had the garage door up, but I loved it. It was simple. It was home. My sister, Grace, and I moved in about a year ago. We were looking for a place to stay, and Mr. Yamashita, being the sweet old man he was, made us a ridiculously cheap rent offer that I couldn't turn down. Grace and I shared a double bed and had a card table and two chairs that served as dining room, desk, and game table. We didn't have much actual space, but it was cozy. It was one block from the ocean but on a corner lot that had a clear view of the water. Every night after we ate dinner and Grace had her bath we would put the garage door up and sit on the edge of our bed and watch the sun go down over the ocean. And just as the sun would begin to dip in the water and the orange spread across the horizon, Grace would take my hand and raise our interlocked fingers in the air and shout, "It's showtime!" I would shout in agreement, "It's showtime!" She would hold my hand tightly in both of hers resting in her lap until it was pitch dark. The darkness coaxed a joyous round of applause out of her. I'd join in. She'd tell me, "That was the best one, don't you think?" I would agree, and somehow I always meant it. Then I'd shut the door, swing Grace's legs up onto the bed, and she'd lie down. I'd cover her up and kiss her on the forehead and tell her, "Night night, Gracie. I love you. Sleep tight." To which she would answer, "Don't let the bedbugs bite. Love you, too, Kate." And she'd kiss me on the forehead. I miss that so much.