The porch door jolts me from my movie, my breath catching in my chest. Dad’s just come home again. It’s 5:30 A.M., another sleepless night. I’ve tried everything: Benadryl, chamomile, weed. I for sure thought the weed would work. Maybe I need to try all three together. Dad is in the kitchen. The clank of ice followed by the slosh of liquid, his daily brandy cocktail is soothing his conscience. Roxy yelps a few times in her annoying, small dog voice, but he hushes her and feeds her snacks from the jar.
I pause the movie and wait for his ritual to end. He slides off his loafers, leaves them on the welcome mat. He starts the laundry, puts in his white button down shirt with Spring Fresh detergent so tomorrow morning his shameful clothes might smell like lagoons and sun showers. This all could have been avoided if I wasn’t an insomniac and my mother didn’t sleep like a dead log. I’m not out to ruin lives, I’m only the girl at the convenience store who hid next to the frozen peas at the holdup. “Are you okay?” people will ask me. “I’m not the one who got shot,” I’ll reply.
My phone vibrates on my desk, glows neon in the semi-darkness: 1 new message. Only one person would know I’m even up at this time. I flip open my phone, squint with the rush of light.
“Parker?” dad’s voice is hesitant like a terrified character in a slasher movie. “Are you awake?” It was a dumb idea for me to take the bedroom off of the kitchen. Actually, it was a dumb idea to move here in the first place.
“Yeah dad, my phone woke me up,” I say confidently. He doesn’t need to know that I know. One of us carrying that awkwardness is one too many.
Delivered: 5:46 A.M.
U still awake?
I don’t know why he bothers to ask when he knows I am.
Delivered 5:48 A.M.
You know I am. Why.
Delivered 5:51 A.M.
Jeez insomnia makes u cranky. Wanna get greakfast?
Delivered 5:54 A.M.
You mean Breakfast? Maybe.
Delivered 5:57 A.M.
Ur an asshole. Txt u in an hr.
I might as well get up. Go for a run maybe. No, it’ll probably be a walk. But if anyone asks it was a run. I’ll wait; make sure dad is safely upstairs before heading into the kitchen. Roxy leaps off her dog bed when she hears my footsteps and follows me to the door. “No, Roxy, I’m not taking you with me.” She cocks her head to the side, sticks her tongue out. “Nooo Roxy.” I feel sorry for her, so I head to the snack jar to placate her like dad did. She got the good end of this deal being the witness of everyone’s secrets.
Just as I stick my hand in the jar, I hear it. The vibrating of his Blackberry. Their bedroom door creaks open – it has to be mom this time. Without even thinking I grab his phone off the counter and sprint out the door with it. Shit. Why did I just do that?
“What’s that noise?” Jordan asks, pointing to my bag.
“Don’t worry about it.” I squeeze the phone through my backpack, try to make it stop.
“That’s the third time it’s gone off; people are starting to stare at us.”
“We’re at a diner, not a four star restaurant.”
“Whose is it anyway?”
I sigh, annoyed, and pull it out. “My dad’s. It has ten missed calls from my house.”
“He probably thinks he lost it or something. Aren’t you going to call him back?”
I look off wistfully; shove a hash brown in my mouth. “Nope.”
His eyebrows scrunch, he’s clearly fishing for what to say.“Parker,” he says finally with a mouth half-full of pancakes, “is there something going on? Everyone’s got moods and stuff, but you’ve been kind of different lately.”
“What do you mean different?” I say hastily, stabbing my egg.
“Don’t get all defensive and crap. You haven’t been sleeping in a couple of months and you get irritated a lot. And now you’re ignoring your dad. You still haven’t told me why you have his phone.”
“Maybe I’m irritated because I haven’t slept.”
“Well maybe you should sleep then.”
“Maybe my dad shouldn’t be cheating on my mom.”
I wasn’t going to say that.
He drops his fork on the blueberry pancakes. “Wait… what? He is? How long have you known about this?”
I put my head in my hands; run my fingers through my hair a couple of times. This is what happens when you don’t sleep. You blurt stupid shit out.
“A few months now.”
“A few months? Does your mom know about this?”
“Do you think he would still be doing it if she knew about it?”
“What are you going to do? Have you talked to him? Are you going to tell her?”
“I can’t imagine which of those conversations would be more awkward: confronting my dad about where he puts his dick or telling my mom it’s not only going in her.”
We sit there what seems like an hour, both of us pushing food aimlessly on our plates. The phone rests on the table between us, constantly vibrating in circles.
“Um. So how are you going to return the phone?”
“Are you going to at all?”
“Probably not.” I lean back in the booth; put my foot up on the seat.
“Why did you take it in the first place?”
“Mom was coming downstairs and it started going off. Who else do you think would be calling at six in the morning?”
“Fair enough, but did you even look at it to see who it was?”
“Nope. Don’t want to know.”
“Why don’t you just check now to be sure? I could look at it for you.”
“No Jordan, just drop it.”
“Okay, I’m sorry. Why don’t you stay at my house tonight? We could have a bonfire or get drunk or something. We could go get drunk now.”
“It’s eight a.m.”
“Well, technically you’ve been up for days so I don’t think it really matters. Later it is then.”
I belch, catching my mouth with my hand. “Ladylike, I know,” I say, swigging another sip back.
“Since when are you ever ladylike?”
I go to punch at his arm but his quick reflexes have me narrowly missing his crotch. “Whoa! Easy on the gin, killer. You almost knocked my balls off.” He grasps me around the waist, pulling me on top of his chest. I’m too drunk or too tired to question it.
In this position I have no choice but to look at the sky, watch the stars glisten in their happy little gas atmospheres. I’d rather it be cloudy. I’d rather the blackness.
Jordan leans over and kisses the top of my head. In my gin induced stupor all I can think about is a chain e-mail I had gotten years ago that outlined what all the kisses meant: If he kisses you on the cheek, he thinks you’re sweet. If he kisses you on the mouth, he likes you. If he kisses you on the hand, he adores you. If he kisses you on the forehead, he misses you. If he kisses you on the head… What the hell did it say about being kissed on the head? I’m sure a twelve-year-old wrote that, it probably shouldn’t be my number one consult on men’s behavior.
The vibrating of the Blackberry cuts through my thoughts again.
“Parker, just turn the phone off so you don’t have to deal with this all night.”
I probably could have done that right from the start, but I wanted to see how progressively freaked out my dad got. Final call count: 38. That’s sufficient paranoia for the day. I hit the red end-call button when I notice it isn’t a call from my house – it’s from “Jessica.” The no-name slut in my head actually does have a name. Jessica.
I weigh the phone in my hand for a couple of seconds. I could tell her off, ask if she knows he has a family, or what it’s like not to sleep for months at a time. Her name starts to look fuzzy around the edges; a drip tries to escape my nose.
“Where are you going?” Jordan yells.
I don’t turn around. I don’t even think I hear him. It’s all gibberish like screaming underwater. Next thing I know the brand-new silver Blackberry is careening through the air, landing in the flames. The vibrating stops. Jessica’s name starts melting into the pit. In a few hours it’ll look the same as the other ashes in the fire. Jordan tugs on my shirt, turning me around.
“Did that feel good?”
“Really good,” I reply. Jordan cradles my cheek in his hand, pulls my body into his and sweetly kisses my lips. If he kisses you on the mouth, it means he likes you. I pull him in tighter, breathing in his surfer-smelling cologne and a mixture of burning metal.
That night we lay on his bed, watching re-runs of Friends until we finally passed out, hands clasped. I had the most amazing dreams.
Copyright Cara Persico, All Rights Reserved.