“where are you tonight, sweet marie?” –bob dylan
1. Matthias Then
He is lying on his stomach, on the hardwood floor in the living room. The varnish is worn off the floorboards in the areas of major traffic throughout the house. This is also the case for the dull green linoleum in the kitchen.
(Matt knows this is a memory, because he’s wearing a tan, cotton, Western-style shirt with mother-of-pearl snaps and that shirt is gone now; he thinks a girlfriend stole it. It had fit so well. Unlike some of his memories, he sees this one through his own eyes, not through some third person like a movie camera.)
Marie is standing on a kitchen chair by the front door, which is wide open, the broken wood screen door ajar. A cat like a tatty gray shadow slips in, glares at Matt, skitters up the stairs. It’s the oldest one they have now, their mom’s old cat, the matriarch Guinevere. Marie reaches over her head and her rings clink on the frosted glass of the entryway light cover. She is unscrewing the screws that hold it on.
“Marie, don’t do that,” he says. His voice is crystal clear in his head.
“You want to just let them die in there?” Marie smiles as she lowers the glass. The moths that have been trapped inside flutter drunkenly free but still hover around the light bulb. She waves her hand to shoo them away and the thing that Matt could have predicted even then happens. The glass bowl-shape slips from her grasp and shatters on the floor, wicked jags of white glass shooting in all directions. One hits Matt’s knuckle, neatly slicing it open.
“Goddammit, Marie,” he says without thinking and now as this memory replays, he wishes he could snap his teeth down on his tongue, but memories don’t work like that.
“Why do you have to say that?” she says. “That’s what dad always said.” And she just stands there, barefooted, on the kitchen chair, and looks at him.
He stands and walks over, lifts her up and carries her out of the broken glass. The soles of his Vans grind the shards, carving secret alien communications into the wood. He drops her down on the faded loveseat. She curls into a ball. He goes and gets the broom.
2. Matthias Later, Kiss the Sky
His body is spread out like a pinwheel, five points like a star. Crown, palms, soles are burning; flesh melting, body falling into the ground, no membrane where his body stops and the earth begins. He is cold sober. He is crying, just silent, tears running from the corners of his eyes to pool in his ears.
I’m losing you… He thinks that’s John Lennon’s voice he hears, a gentle sort of wailing.
The branches of the maple are black against the sky. It is a true deep indigo tonight, shining stars pricked out even through the light pollution. What’s it like having a twin? He’s been asked so much.
Like your heart torn out and walking around outside your body.
Stupid question, impossible to answer. He had never not been a twin.
And how can he have thought that was John Lennon’s voice, when obviously it belongs to the tree. It croons and keens, trying desperately to get his attention.
He decides to let it pull him down and now he’s going, down to the roots, down where it is moist and black, cool earth and grasping roots and she’s singing to him, her voice filling his tear-slimed ears.
You’re losing her… So sorrowful—poor Matty.
3. Matthias Now, Acid Eater
The nights are suddenly cool. The window on the landing is open and the sheer curtains bell in with the breeze, a cool green exhale like the breath of pine trees in even in the heat of summer. There’s a slight tang of smoke in that breeze and Matt wonders who is chilly enough to light a fire in the fireplace.
Matt takes deep, deep breaths, trying to fill himself with that cool, cool air—trying to fill his head, his chest, his gut, legs, arms. Listening. Listening hard.
And it seems he can almost hear…something. And then the boards creak in the hall behind him and he looks over his shoulder, and through the dark gray rounded shadows comes a figure. Tall, pale, slender with the hard flat stomach and pecs of youth that doesn’t even try, a stomach and pecs Matt never had. It’s Seth, dressed in cut-offs and holding an empty glass.
“Is she taking more Vicodin?” Mat asks in a low voice.
“Yeah, man, her wrist hurts.” Seth’s throat sounds full of gravel. He clears it. “I’m getting her some water.”
“You should tell her if that runs out too soon, she’ll be hurting and the doc won’t give her any more.” He tells himself he doesn’t care, that’s her fucking lookout. He remembers how earlier in the ER he cussed the nurses out until they brought ice for her wrist. Am I my sister’s keeper?
“Fuck, man, you tell her.”
He struggles to keep his mouth shut. He considers physically pinching his lips shut with his fingers, but he spits the words out like little chunks of metal, like solid little beebees that fall to the floor and roll around with a silvery sound. “She’ll puke her guts after everything she drank tonight.” Or never wake up. Seth just chuckles, starts walking toward the bathroom again.
“Christ.” Her thin voice floats out and through them. “Will you lay off, Matty? I got a fuckin broken bone here.”
He raises his hand to wave them off. Okay, fine, I’m done with you. A hundred pounds soaking wet, knocking back gin and juice, popping Vicodin. Whatever. Everybody works out their own karma.
4. Matthias, Out of Time
There’s a door in the upstairs hallway—it’s a closet, really. But there’s a trapdoor in the ceiling and it leads to the attic.. Rickety folding stairs come out, it’s shadowy, even though there’s a bare lightbulb with a little silver chain he’s pulled and a peculiar smell drifts down.
He’s finally heard the voice he was listening for in the coolness of the stairwell, and now he follows it. Fear shivers in his gut like cold Jello. He asked for this. He asked for it in his dreams like one flashbulb memory after another. It’s a strong voice, a male voice. He’s heard it before, he thinks, a long time ago, it echoed in his bones when he slept curled around Marie in the dark, in the wet.
It’ll tell him what he needs to know.