Home

Prose

Poetry

Visual Art

About Us

Submissions

Archive

Inside

by Alea Baker-Dockery

      "Patrick?"

      Damn, sheís here. Sheís going to hate the look of this place. Should I try to appear like I was cleaning? No, sheíll see right through that. Here she comes. Ok, get up. At least clear the couch. Now smile or something.

      "Patrick? IÖoh, Patrick."

     Sara walked into the living room and scanned the piles of newspaper and old clothing. She saw her brother standing in the doorway. She hung her head slightly and quietly exhaled.

      Sheís disappointed. I must look like such a mess. I really should have showered.

      "Hey, sis, look IÖI was going to clean. I forgot you were coming. You want some coffee?"

      "Pat, how long have you been lying there?" She pointed to the man-size dent in the couch.

      Well, that didnít work.

      "Look, Iím alright, I just uhÖforgot what day it was." Pat moved toward the kitchen while Saraís eyes followed him. He turned the water on and put the brown coffee cup in the sink. He heard his sister scraping together piles of junk mail and old magazines.

      "Donít do that, please," Pat said as he looked back into the living room. "I donít invite you over to play my maid."

      "You donít invite me over at all."

      Yet you still come here. Do you pity me? I know you hate this house. I hate it here too, in a way. But I canít leave. You know that, donít you? Is that why you come here? Do you think youíre comforting me?

      "Pat, have you been umÖtaking your meds?"

      "Yes. You really donít need to ask."

      "Ok, but are they helping?"

      "Does it look like theyíre helping?"

     Sara looked around the dark beaten room. The blinds were crooked and broken, and the furniture shone silver with duct tape. Old plates and cups strewn around the living room had begun to house living organisms. Magazines like People and Starz covered the floor along with cut-outs of celebrities and fragments of words. Pat looked down to read the words "global cat" cut into tiny boxes next to Al Goreís face.

      Pat had told his sister about his depression and the paranoia. She had even picked him up from the hospital after his first suicide attempt.

     "It was more like a cry for help, you know? I mean, nobody lies down in the middle of a busy intersection when they could just buy a gun. I just needed to get my head straight. Donít worry about me, Sara."

     Sara didnít say anything to her brother until they pulled up into her driveway.

      "I donít understand, Patrick. I guess I might never understand what itís like for you. But please, please tell me if you need to talk about anything, ok?"

      But when I try, Pat thought as he stood in his kitchen, you donít like what you hear. I scare you, and Iím sorry. I canít live the way I should. I canít find peace anywhere.

      "Do you want to go on a walk?" Sara asked. "You look like you could use some fresh air." Pat didnít realize until then that he had been holding his breath. He exhaled loudly and pulled his shoulders back.

      "Yeah, Iíll get some shoes."

      Patrick put on his torn sandals and went out the front door without looking back. Sara jogged a few paces to catch up. Patrick stared at the tree tops and breathed in for a long time. It was the middle of autumn, the best time of the year in his opinion. The leaves were electrifying colors of copper and gold. Pat felt his lungs aching for air, as if he could not breathe in deep or long enough to satisfy their craving.

     I can breathe again. I can think again. Let it last.

     "I canítÖIím not doing so well, Sara," he said after a while.

      "I know," she said quietly. "Tell me how youíve been."

     Patrick paused. "Why do you come here? Life never changes for me, so why are you here?"

      "Do you really not know? Youíre my brother. I take care of you like you took care of me. I like to think that my visits help you in some way."

      "I know, but Iím telling you it doesnít matter. It doesnít matter what you or I or the doctors or meds do. Iíll always be like this; things will always get better then worse, like some fucking, sick, twisted roller coaster. God damn it, Sara, Iím so tired of it. Iím so tired."

      They were quiet while they crossed a small hand-made bridge that went over a dried up creek. Dead leaves collected at the bottom with the smooth stones and broken twigs. They had never seen water running through the creek. When they were children, they pretended an ogre lived under the bridge. One of them would cross while the other hid under the wood slats and tried to grab their siblingís leg. Patrick felt a clenching in his stomach as they crossed, as if the monster were really preparing to pull him under and into the darkness.

      "I donít know how to help you, Pat. I never have. But I canít leave you out here alone. I know Iíve asked you before, but what do you think about moving in with me?"

      "No." Why does she do this to me? I canít live out there, especially not with her. I canít let her see me like this every day.

      "Look, Pat, I really think this place is bad for you. Itís so isolated out here. I think itís making you worse."

      "Sara, I donít belong anywhere else."

     The sun had gone down when Sara finally drove down the dusty, dirt road leading away from the old twisted woods. Patrick stood at his grey window and watched her car until it disappeared behind the black trees. He felt an aching in his chest that pulled him toward his sister, away from his dark house. He let it go.


Back to Top