“Everything you touch turns to shit.”
Day? September 2007?
GM: Emmett dreams.
Or maybe wakes.
He’s back in his house. His parents and Clarice are sitting around the dinner table. They’re naked.
They all turn to look at him when he comes in.
“Take your clothes off,” his father whispers thickly, like he told Ron that Abélia told him to do.
Pre-cum drips from Phil’s erect cock as he rises to help his son. His mother’s and aunt’s nipples are firm. Their womenhoods are wet.
“Isn’t this what you want, my dear boy?”
Abélia sits in a chair. He can’t tell where the dimly-lit room’s shadows end and her midnight dress begins. She is part of his house. Part of family. Fluttering laughter spills from all of their mouths but hers.
Simmone giggles from her mother’s lap.
Emmett: I just wanted to sleep.
He disrobes slowly, carefully. He starts with his shoes.
He can’t look away from her eyes as he does so.
Part of their magnetism is a reaction his repulsion of the other sights of the room.
But a deeper, truer instinct tells him that if he looks elsewhere, those ceaseless, bottomless eyes will find him wanting, and start nibbling on him instead of playing with him.
Em holds her gaze.
“It is what I thought I wanted, Mrs. Devillers. But I was foolish, and younger than I am now.”
His belt thuds to the floor.
“Albeit not much younger,” he smiles, drawing on the refreshing lack of overwhelming pain he feels to make it more real in this unreal place.
“You have been very patient with me, ma’am. I’m sincerely grateful.”
Mostly because she had not chosen to do this sooner, but sincerely grateful nonetheless.
GM: Simmone lifts her dress. Her mother starts massaging her clitoris. The two-year-old whimpers happily.
“Emmett Delacroix, Emmett Delacroix, why can’t you be happy like me, Emmett Delacroix?” she pants. “Are yours just not good enough? Emmett Delacroix?”
Emmett: All the more reason to not look anywhere but those two eyes.
GM: His naked family stand motionless nearby. Frozen nearby. Hands still out to help him remove his discarded clothes. A hair-thin line of pre-cum hangs from his father’s still-erect shaft.
Emmett: “They’re good, Simmone,” he says, as the bolo tie clumps to the floor. “Very good people. Patient people. It’s me who’s broken. I tried to be too much without knowing what it would be like to be the me I thought I wanted.”
His jacket falls. The shirt follows.
His chest feels scrawny and hairless, clammy and cold.
His spindly arms carefully guide his pants down legs that tremble even as they stand.
GM: “This has happened before,” Abélia states.
“I thought this was what you wanted?” Cécilia asks curiously from behind Em. She starts massaging his cock to get it hard. She slaps and tugs his balls too for good measure.
Emmett: He almost turns to see her. Almost breaks to see even the cruel facsimile of her desire for him.
It doesn’t stop him from getting erect, a detail which he finds incredibly inconvenient given all the other things happening in that room.
Still, he perseveres.
“Men want things they shouldn’t. I hazard even women do that, occasionally. But I wouldn’t know. All I have is my word.”
Those dark eyes are his universe.
“What do you mean by that, ma’am?”
GM: They glint like dying suns reflected in a creation-less void.
“I don’t think that’s it, though,” Cécilia says thoughtfully. “That doesn’t make sense for the character.”
“Shit, kid,” wheezes Ron. "Your one shot! Shoulda fuckin’ drugged her, got it outta your system… "
Emmett: “I know I’ve made mistakes,” he agrees, letting that emptiness call to the same void he carries in his voice, the one that lets it swallow people’s attention up without ever pausing to wonder why it thirsts so. “But I’m not done trying to fix them, and even if I make things worse trying, I’d rather live with that than wonder if I could have made things right.”
His breath labors slightly as Cécilia strokes ceaselessly.
“I need to try. To make things. Right.”
He wonders what those empty eyes see.
GM: “Be quiet, I know you want this,” declares Sami.
She tosses the belt over her shoulder, unzips Em’s already discarded pants, then hitches her skirt and mounts him there on the plastic (is that what it’s made of?) desk’s built-in chair. Her smile is gone like a discarded LBD. Her motions are minimal but vigorous. The chair’s built-in desk forces the coupling pair close together, and Em can feel her still-clothed breasts pressing against his face. The climax comes suddenly and he feels like he’s barely gotten to know her when she climbs off. He doesn’t even know what she looks like naked, or how her kiss feels, or even how she looks with her down.
“Okay, I’ll do it,” Sami says thoughtfully.
She holds up her phone and snaps some pictures of them, then climbs off him, and slings her backpack over her shoulder.
“Gotta go. Good luck with your girlfriend.”
She’s out the classroom door without another look back.
Cécilia sits attentively at the desk at the front of the room, taking clear and concise notes in girlishly neat handwriting like the straight-A student Em knows she is.
Abélia sits behind the teacher’s desk, thoughtfully holding an apple. A worm burrows out from a hole, followed by half a dozen others. The worm has half a dozen writhing, fleshy ends, like a grotesque fleshy spider. The tallest one has Cash Money’s face. It smiles a cumstain-like smile. The other ends have Dino’s, Josh’s, Showerz’s, and Jermaine’s faces. Some make laughing expressions. Others sneer. Others glower.
“This is obscene, Emmett,” the many-headed worm chants in voices that all sound like Isabel’s dad.
Emmett: Those eyes are his anchors, his constellation graveyards.
“I have made mistakes, Mrs. Devillers. But I think I am prepared to make more, ma’am, if you would make use of them. If your heart is as vast and warm and kind a thing as I think it must be.”
A little less sincere, now, but he says with no less feeling.
GM: Abélia swallows the apple. It’s too large for anyone to in one gulp, but she still swallows, and doesn’t chew either. High-pitched female screams like during Sami’s gang-rape sound as it disappears.
Cécilia’s mother dabs her mouth and turns to him.
“This has happened before.”
Emmett: “When, ma’am?”
GM: Mrs. Flores sits down next to Em. He almost can’t tell it’s her. Her black eyes are so swollen they almost look foreign eggplant-like growths, Em can’t even see any eye underneath them. Blood is everywhere.
“I’m not trying to be vapid, Emmett. It’s just that after my husband beats me like this, and screws up my kids’ heads… I really thought the best way to deal was puttin’ on a smile for the world, to maybe just make a bit of someone else’s day less dark. I’d have enjoyed being in your movie.”
Cécilia raises her hand. Her mother calls on her.
“Isabel isn’t a vampire,” says Cécilia. “That never happened.”
Emmett: He’s confused about Isabel, but he doesn’t say anything, waiting for the strange play to continue.
GM: Isabel’s dad sits down next to Em and lays a possessively assuring hand on his shoulder. “Quiet. I like a woman who doesn’t gabber.”
Emmett: “I can help her, too. She needs a friend. I can be one to her.”
GM: “This is happening out of order,” says Cécilia. “Everyone needs friends. Who are yours?”
Emmett: That makes him pause.
“My uncle. And kids. Kids at school.”
GM: “You killed his son.”
She seems to think.
“But I don’t have a son. Maybe I’m being a little judgmental.”
Emmett: “He doesn’t need to know I killed his son. I barely need to know that.”
GM: Isabel’s dad smells. His carapace rots apart. A dapperly dressed black man with sunglasses who smells like insect repellent shoots Em an oily grin.
“I’ll be your friend, Emmett. So long as you don’t fuck me over.”
Emmett: He frowns at the man with the sunglasses.
He hasn’t seen him before, and yet there’s something familiar about him.
GM: The man plucks off the last stray bits of rotted flesh.
“Then I’ll fuck you back just as hard.”
“This has happened before,” says Abélia.
She claps her hands and they’re in a prison.
Emmett: Why is he in a wheelchair?
“I don’t know what you mean, ma’am.”
GM: Em sees himself. He’s sitting in a wheelchair, missing his legs, and chained to the table. He’s got a beard. He looks decades older. He’s screaming and weeping and shitting himself as a woman who is and isn’t Cécilia’s sister drives a psychic icepick into his head.
“This is how it turns out,” says Cécilia.
“You need to remember the best parts of this, Elliot. The best parts of yourself. I think that could make all the difference, once it’s really going to count.”
The doors swing open wide, and guards wheel the legless man into an execution chamber.
Emmett: “Elliott was never real,” he mutters.
He is young but he has lived more than so many.
He is ready for the needle.
GM: “This has happened before,” says Abélia.
Emmett: His eyes meet hers, drawn to her even in death.
“Then let me do something new, ma’am. I’m ready.”
GM: “Have you ever watched snakes make love?” asks Sami. She’s dressed in a prison guard’s uniform as the doors clang ominously shut.
Emmett: “No. Do they wrap around each other?”
GM: “They do, actually,” nods Cécilia. “They’re closer to each other than humans can ever be, in some ways.”
“That’s the tragedy. We don’t realize what we’ve lost until it’s too late to do anything about it. Mostly too late.”
Simmone smiles up at Em. She’s holding hands with another little girl wearing cowboy boots who’s named Sue.
“I love friends!” says Simmone.
“Friends mighta saved you!” says Sue.
Emmett: “I like friends, too,” he says. “I just can’t seem to hold on to them.”
GM: “Holding onto things is hard,” says Sami. “Just ask her.”
Lena is handcuffed to a hospital bed. Em’s parents wear prison guard uniforms too as they wheel her in. She’s giving birth. The baby that comes out has Emmett’s face and vein-lined skin as red as the devil’s. It smiles like the cat that ate the canary as she cries mournfully:
“Where is my baby!”
The infantile creature stares up at her with hatefully possessive, jealous eyes and shrieks at the top of its lungs:
Emmett: He takes it from her, and shushes it with warm tones as he gazes into his own, devilish face. Perhaps he should smother himself.
GM: “You’ve had worse thoughts,” remarks Sami.
She pulls out her gun and blows its brains out. Blood, brains, and gore spatter Em from head to toe.
Cécilia nods approvingly.
“Let’s get down to it. Get over here and fuck me, Em. You have Maman’s permission.”
She lays down naked on the execution gurney and spreads her legs.
Emmett: He goes to her.
He does, his eyes finding their her mother’s eyes even as his hands run over her.
GM: She’s gone.
There’s just Cécilia.
No Sami, Lena, or family members either. Just them.
Emmett: To her eyes, then, like the tender lover Elliott should be.
They’re much the same, anyway, but so much more blue.
GM: “Remember, Em,” she says as he fills her.
Emmett: “Is this really you?” he asks between thrusts. “Really us?”
Emmett: The images and sensations make him long for the incestuous scene he started with, and Abèlia’s endless gaze permeates the entire affair, make his cream and sob alternately, butin the quiet moments where everything makes a half-kind of sense, he asks Cécilia, hoping she might hear him with every drop of hard-gained earnestness: “Did you know from the beginning, Ci?”
GM: This has happened before.
This has happened before.
_Em may not have met Abèlia for very long, but hers is not a face he will soon forget. It’s the spitting image of her daughter’s, down to the same pale skin, high cheekbones, milk-smooth complexion, and swan-like neck. Their lips, eyes, mouth, chin… all close to the same, if one were to shave away the passage of twenty to thirty years. The only immediate, all-too striking difference between them is their hair and eyes: pale blonde against midnight black, and deep against pale blue. Em has the odd thought that they’re blue like an ocean… the same ocean. Only one is close to the surface where the sun still shines, and the other is so deep as to be almost out of sight, just on the border region where nameless things great and terrible and alien swim. _
He’s asking the wrong question.
Does he still not realize?
Emmett: He isn’t sure.
“You… did this to me? Before?”
He tries to meet those eyes.
“I’ll do anything,” he says. “Just help me fix it, please, please, please Maman, please—”
GM: This has happened before.
Friday afternoon, 28 September 2007?
GM: Em awakens in Tulane Medical Center with a cast on his leg and leather restraints around his limbs. A Dr. Crawford asks for his name and the events that got him there. Gunshot wounds are legally required to be reported to the NOPD. No matter what he says, it’s not long before he gets a visit from two men who introduce themselves as Detective Moore and Detective Hill.
“Jig’s up, Emmett,” says Detective Moore.
“Or is it Elliot?” asks Detective Hill.
“I guess you’re a lot of things to a lot of people,” remarks Detective Moore.
“Or a lot of people to a lot of people,” chuckles Detective Hill.
“We have some questions, Elliot.”
This has happened before.
Emmett: He smiles like there’s a joke he’s trying to understand in the ribbing they haven’t explained anything, and nods a little when they bring up the names.
“Jig? Isn’t that an Irish thing? I’m not really able to dance after what happened.” He frowns a little. “I’m sorry, officers, it sounds like I’ve done something to upset you. I just want to clear up how this happened and help any way I can.”
He adds, “Was one of you gentlemen on Cops? I love that show, and you both have great faces for TV. I’m actually making a movie, if either of you wants in. There’d be a free dinner in it, too. Commander’s Palace. I’m sure most places in town are willing to feed officers for free anyhow, huh? Or maybe not. This town doesn’t appreciate its police enough, my civics teacher says that all the time. Good guy.”
GM: “Don’t think he gives a fuck,” says Moore.
“Don’t think so either,” agrees Hill.
“That’s the beauty, Em. We don’t either,” smiles Moore. “None of what you say matters, not really. We arrest you and our unit clearance rate goes up.”
“You’re under arrest,” Hill explains helpfully. He pulls out a card and reads from it,
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand these rights as we have read them to you?”
Emmett: “If I say no, do you have to read them again?”
GM: “No, that doesn’t really make a difference either,” says Moore.
Emmett: “I’m sorry. I’m still processing. What am I under arrest for?”
GM: “We’re not sorry. And we’re not actually required to explain that,” replies Hill.
Cops in a hospital. This hasn’t happened before, but it sure seems like it could happen again. Em feels like he is floating above all the pain, all the drugs, all the consequences, and that somehow, something about these two men, these Detectives Hill and Moore, is completely pointless. So what if he gets arrested? It’s just bullshit. Isn’t it?
Oh, there’s the movie.
There’s high school.
There’s his family.
There’s his life.
But it’s all just bullshit, isn’t it? Somehow, Em knows with that bullheaded confidence only 17-year-olds can have, that he is invincible. That he is going to turn out okay.
He sees it like a director reading the script of a movie that’s not going to get made. It’s all a script. It’s all bullshit. He can do what he wants. Be who he wants. Say what he wants. None of it fucking matters.
Piss on his future. It’s all bullshit.
Emmett: It’s all bullshit, and it’s happened before (or maybe later, some part of him that’s been paying attention notes) but it’s his bullshit life, and for a half-second he mourns it, has to stop himself choking on something that he never ate.
He appreciates the forthright nature of the cops, their cheerful abandon of the pretense of duty or honor. He finds it refreshing to know that the world really is the one he’s always thought it must be.
Yes, he can say anything, and it will not matter—curse them, or make them laugh, or say something that will at least sink in their memories only to surface like a bloated corpse when they drink themselves to death later—but he feels the fun has rather been taken out of it.
Em tries saying nothing for a little while.
Saturday morning, 29 September 2007
GM: The room’s features are bare and plain: featureless steel and concrete. Uncomfortable-looking steel stools, bolted to the floor, are seated around pexiglass windows and an attached steel countertop. Phones hang from dividers between the seats.
The company in Orleans Parish Prison hasn’t been as bad as Em thought. The people there are a lot of Showerz and Dino. Plenty seem like everyday folks off the street who were just at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Emmett: He’s been shaking lots of hands and collecting lots of names.
Hey, you never know.
GM: It’s the comforts that leave the most to be desired. He’s dressed in an orange jumpsuit with ‘OPP Inmate’ printed in thick black letters, along with tightey-whiteys, white socks, and ‘Jackie Chan’ slide-on shoes that painfully pinch his feet. The jumpsuit feels like a clown suit, or the dunce cap that children used to wear in school. Everyone that is not an inmate looks at him like an animal, and he can feel it. The jumpsuit itself is faded, ripped, rough, stained, sagging (it feels at least several sizes too big), smelly, and missing one of its buttons. Em can only speculate how many people have worn it before him.
Emmett: He tries to relax in it, nonetheless. It’s all he’s given, so he tries to use it.
GM: His first visitor past the plexiglas isn’t his parents. Perhaps that’s a surprise to him. Perhaps it’s not.
There’s nothing parental about Ron’s look as his uncle sits down on the stainless steel stool behind the window. No lectures that Em can all but feel waiting to leap off the older adult’s tongue. No recriminations.
But no questions if he’s okay, either. If he’s all right. If he’s hurt.
Ron opens with just one question as he picks up the phone, as blunt and heavy as a dropped anvil:
“What the fuck happened at that shoot?”
Emmett: Em holds his uncle’s gaze. “We did what we came to do. J was getting kind of angry. Arguing with the host. Stupid shit. I peaced out. I don’t know what happened after.”
He adds, “Nice to see you, too.”
GM: Ron’s stare is flat, hard, and uncomfortable as the stainless steel seat.
“My son’s dead.”
Emmett: Em’s eyes widen, and he swallows. “They—they killed him? Jesus, Ron. What are they—do they know—? I am so sorry, man. I didn’t know.” He makes himself choke a little so he can make it seem like a sob.
He really should have taken me more seriously.
GM: There’s as much change on Ron’s face as the steel seat.
“You’re full of shit.”
Emmett: Em stops. Looks up at him.
“What do you want from me, uncle? I don’t have any answers for you. Not if that’s what you think.”
He pauses. “Ron. Did you love him?”
GM: Ron doesn’t stop either. He doesn’t start. He doesn’t answer.
He just repeats:
“I want to know what the fuck happened to my son.”
Emmett: Em stares back at him. “Your son, huh? He didn’t think he had a father. You want to know what happened to your son? He grew up without you. Made his own way. You kept him around, but you never had shit to do with him. Didn’t have room at that little fuck-palace, I guess. And now he’s dead, so you’re getting all paternal and shit? Who the fuck do you think you’re kidding, Ron? I was more your son than he ever was, and we both know it.”
GM: There’s anger at his words, Em can see. Heat rising against the steel. Gray turning red.
But it retains its shape. By just enough.
“One more time I’m asking. One more. Or your pretty ass can rot here.”
“What the fuck happened to my son?”
Emmett: He shouldn’t feel hurt. Shouldn’t feel angry. Shouldn’t feel jealous, not for his hoodrat cousin, his dead cousin, the cousin he killed.
He needs Ron on his side. Needs money, a lawyer, somebody with power in his corner.
But there’s nothing he can say that will make it all right, or better, or even polite.
And maybe, just maybe, he wishes somebody cared as much about him as the dead boy.
“Same old story. His daddy didn’t love him enough to stay. So he made his own way, and that way got him killed. Hey, maybe when I’m dead, you’ll realize you actually give a shit about me, too.”
Why is he crying? Why the fuck is he so sad?
No reason. No good reason at all.
GM: Ron stares back. Em’s uncle’s face grows redder at the simultaneously venomous and needful words, but it quavers too, like an overripe tomato threatening to burst. Ron looks old, and sad, and caught completely off guard by that fact. Like the party music’s finally died, and no one is left on the dance floor but him. Not a wife. Not his sister.
And not his son.
Ron’s reply is a whisper through the phone.
“I don’t know when it’s gonna be. But I know how it’s gonna be. It’s gonna be your sister. Your girlfriend. Your mom. Your dad. Whoever you sucker into trusting you. Sitting where I am now, after everything is fucked, asking the same question.”
“Don’t bullshit a bullshitter, kid. I see right through you. You’re bad seed. Everything you touch turns to shit.”
With those final words, Ron hangs up the phone. He gives one last long look, gets up, walks out the door, and out of his nephew’s life.
Emmett: “Where do you think I caught—”
But he’s gone, and it doesn’t matter.
He wants to hurt. Himself. Ron. Abèlia. His parents. Mouton. The poison-eyed bitch. He wants to hurt everybody and everything until his own pain is eclipsed in the resulting detonation of grief, agony and sorrow. He wants the whole world to suffer because he does, the entirety of existence to writhe with his tantrum and know that nothing, not a single moment of kindness or love or hope or resurrection will ever undo the crimes committed against him, the defendant: everybody else.
Yes, he supposes Ron has a point.
Sunday afternoon, 30 September 2007
GM: Em gets his wish.
Oh, he sees suffering aplenty in Orleans Parish Prison’s bowels. The inmates stabbed and shanked and shivved and beaten by each other, or by the guards: they suffer.
The unfortunates not cut out for this, who sob pathetically between their hands over whatever accident of fate landed them there: they suffer as well. The drugs they buy or foolishly accept for ‘free’ from the veteran inmates do little to numb their pain.
The unfortunates sodomized in the showers, or in their own bunks, because the strong always take from the weak: they suffer, too.
The lunatics howling apocalyptic insights into the night after everyone’s locked up: they suffer, in their own way. So does Em, when he doesn’t get to sleep.
Even eating the slime that passes for food in this shithole, if someone bigger doesn’t steal it, is suffering.
But it all happens to strangers. The only person in the prison he immediately recognizes is Mickey Zyers, who, like any cockroach, seems perfectly adapted to survival in even the most hostile environments. He whines to Em about “butthurt niggerjews.”
Emmett: He is truly in Hell.
GM: Suffering is sweetest from the people you know.
It’s a few days later that Em gets another visit.
He’d almost wondered if they weren’t ever going to come.
Emmett’s father Philémon possesses the distinct, but hard-to-name features of a redbone. His frame is tall, but neither slim nor stocky. His dark, semi-wavy locks and goatee are modestly trimmed. One cheek bears pock-marked scars, suggesting either a history of bad acne or a hunting accident with buckshot. Though his metal-framed glasses are two generations shy of hip, he passes for a somewhat fashion-conscious professor in today’s attire of jeans, corduroy sports coat, and t-shirts—which is still dressed up next to his otherwise preferred hunting camo and muck boots.
Many people who call their spouse their “better half” are alone in calling them that, but in Phil’s and Tanya’s case, everyone at least instantly agrees. Everyone always said Em got more of his mother’s looks. Her dark skin is wrinkled from age, but unblemished by acne or buckshot, and they’re good wrinkles too, the kind someone gets from smiling a lot. Her features are well-proportionated, her black hair still rich despite a few gray strands, and her black-framed glasses (which give her a resemblance to her husband) are the kind that never goes out of style. She’s better-dressed in a white blouse and tan slacks.
Em’s parents sit down across from the phone. His mother is the first to pick up the phone.
Their faces are stone.
Emmett: “Mom, Dad.” He rubbed pepper into his eyes a few minutes ago to redden them and get some tears going.
GM: They don’t say anything for a moment.
“Boy, you mus’ think we’re pretty darn stupid,” his father finally grits out as he takes the phone.
Oh for fuck’s sake, did I use too much again? Is there some caught in my eyelashes?
GM: “What? That ain’t no country I ever hear of. They speak English in what?” says his father. “That how it goes in that movie you can’t get enough of?”
“Phil,” says Tanya.
Emmett: “I barely even know why I’m in here!” Em protests. “What do you guys even think I did?! I know I can be stupid sometimes, I know that, but you can’t think that I, I would do that to somebody—”
He stares at them, the two the that raised him. “Can you?”
He doesn’t know, he realizes.
What they do think he is or isn’t capable of.
“You think I would hurt somebody like that?” he whispers.
GM: No cracks show from the stone faces behind the plexiglass.
“Do you have anything that you would like to tell us, Emmett?” his mother asks.
“Think long and hard,” his father says, his voice slow and opaque as the Mississippi on a cold winter day.
“Think long and hard.”
Emmett: “I just… I told some lies and I kept a movie a secret from you… and that’s all! I haven’t done anything to deserve this!”
GM: “That so? Jus’ a harmless lil’ movie?” asks his dad.
GM: “You’re fulla horseshit.”
The stone cracks. The words are angry. But there’s hurt, too.
Emmett: “Why?” he says, anger simmering beneath his words. “Why do I have to be full of horseshit on this? Why, just once, can’t something be not my fault?”
GM: Phil just stops and stares for a moment, veritably agape. But his danger doesn’t simmer. It roars to life, turning his face bright red, and all but blistering Emmett’s ear through the phone:
“Why? Why!? WHY!? Because you’re a GODDAMN LIAR is why! The truth ain’t what you say it is, Emmett! Truth is truth no matter what pile of s—maure, you try to shovel into our mouths! Don’t you piss on my leg and tell me it’s rainin’! YOU are the liar, YOU are the one wh-”
“Phil,” Emmett’s mother cuts him off.
But there’s little pity in her voice for her son. The stone breaks there too.
Em knows well the look on her face. His father’s temper might take a lot to blister this hot, but he’s seen that look on his mother’s face a thousand and ten times before.
“You’ve been up to a lot worse these past few months than white lies and a movie, Emmett. I don’t know why you even saw that as something to hide. We’d have been thrilled to hear you wanted to do something constructive. Something good.”
They’re sad enough words. But all Em hears is bitterness.
Emmett: “I don’t understand,” he says. “What you think is so bad. So bad I deserve this.”
GM: “Let’s start with your uncle being in the hospital.”
He doesn’t need to play up his confusion.
GM: That apparent confusion just turns his father’s face even redder as his snuff-stained teeth clench.
“People aren’t as stupid as you think, Emmett,” his mother says. “You think your father and I haven’t noticed the signs in our own house? That we don’t smell the weed or cigarette smoke in your room, or not hear your window rolling up when you sneak out?”
Emmett: “For christ’s—this is the first I’m hearing about this! What the fuck happened to Ron?! He was here a few days ago!”
GM: His parents just stare at him.
“I think you should ask yourself that,” his mother finally says.
“I think you should think long and hard on what role you might have had in sending him there.”
Emmett: “Why—” His face is red. Not flushed, not pink, but the same color as his father’s, his complexion flaming and ugly. He hates looking angry. Seeing them see him this way.
“You know who he is,” he all but spits. “You know him. You told me to stay away from him, because you knew. And now you’re saying I did this to him?! Me?! To him?! He’s the victim here?”
His chest, small and somewhat scrawny though it might be, heaves with furious sobs. “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!”
He doesn’t say it into the phone receiver. He doesn’t need to.
“WHAT HAPPENED TO MY UNCLE?!”
GM: His parents stonily receive Em’s rage and wrath in a way make that makes him feel like he’s nine years old again and pitching a tantrum. He was always a slow learner.
Still is, arguably.
His mother finally replies into the phone, “Your uncle drank himself almost to death. He’s still in ICU.”
“We’ve visited him. We’ve had a lot to think about.”
Emmett: “Drank himself to—and that’s my fault, is it?”
His mind is reeling.
What did you tell them. What did you tell them, you evil alkie FUCK?
GM: “Boy, I don’t know if you’re stupid or you jus’ think we are,” his father replies.
“Phil,” his mother says.
Her tone sounds more tired than chiding.
Emmett: “How can I think anything, when you tell me nothing?”
GM: His father looks about to angrily start again, but his mother just shakes her head.
“Your uncle has a lot of things going for him, by most people’s standards. His movies. His money. His women.”
“But my first thought, when we saw him in that hospital, was how sad he was. How lonely. How hurt. No one looked like they’d been there to visit. There weren’t any cards or balloons.”
“He was in and out of it. But one of the clearest things he said was, ‘I don’t want to die alone.’ Over and over. ‘I don’t want to die alone.’”
Emmett: Em says nothing. His face is dark and so unlike the face everybody says is handsome.
GM: “There was a lot I was, and am, angry at him over. There is a lot of pain your father and I are still struggling to come to terms with. There are a lot of things he’s done that we can’t ever accept or condone.”
“But we stayed a while. I don’t know how much better it made things. But he seemed glad we did.”
“Your Aunt Clarice is still there,” says Phil. The red has mostly washed out from his face. “She’s praying for him. She’s praying for you.”
Emmett: He half-laughs, half sneers. “If you only…” he shakes his head. “Yeah. I’m sure she is. Thank her for me.”
His heart is loud in his chest.
GM: His father’s stare sharpens. "I told her to keep at it. You’ve done things too, Emmett. Things that… "
His father looks at him, and then suddenly seems to deflate like a punctured balloon, the air all coming out in a great and haphazard rush, "That make us wonder, wonder where, where in God’s name, we went wrong with you. Wh… "
His mother just looks at him.
Em’s father looks at her, then back to Em.
“He’s done worse than you,” Phil says gruffly. "We’re… we’re going in to see him again. And you’re… "
His father’s voice suddenly softens. Almost implores.
“You’re our son.”
His mother picks up the phone.
“Come clean to us, Emmett,” she says quietly.
“Come clean over everything, no more lies. And we will work through what comes next. As a family.”
“We don’t want to see you where your uncle now is.”
“Or where he could have been.”
Emmett: Emmett stares at them.
They know. There’s nearly no doubt about it. They think he drugged and raped Cécilia, probably, but worse, odds are looking good Ron told them about his attempt to control Sami.
So why can’t he say anything?
Because I don’t want to be a rapist, he thinks. I don’t want to be a murderer. I don’t want to make movies or get laid or ever tell another lie. I want to go home and forget this ever happened, and I want everybody to shut up when I walk into a room and never say anything ever again.
But once he says what he did, he’ll always be who he is.
“I’m your son,” he says slowly. “And I know I’ve been bad. I know I’m not who you wanted me to be.” He stares at them through the glass. “But I’m innocent of this. I am.”
His fingers touch the glass, lightly and tips-first, like it’s a riverbound reflection he can dip his hand into.
“Can’t you believe me? Please? I’m seventeen. I’m not some monster. I’m yours. Please? I can’t go to prison. You can’t let me go. Not like this. I’ll never come back.”
There’s nothing else to say, so he just says, again:
GM: Emmett’s parents are only a few feet away from his hand as he touches the glass.
A few feet, and a million miles.
And a million more every second they look into his eyes.
It’s like how driving along one of those perfectly flat deserts must be. Where he can drive and drive and drive, and still see what he’s leaving behind in the rear view mirror.
His parents don’t look at each other.
They don’t even say anything.
They just look at him, at their son, hearts welling in those eyes that look a million more miles away every second.
Em’s father lays a hand on his mother’s shoulder.
She hangs up the phone.
They get up.
They turn around.
They walk away.
They don’t look back.
Emmett: He watches them leave.
Watches them give up on him because he is too broken to fix.
It’s the last thing he needs to see to finally get the picture. Nobody, not the best people in this world, or the worst, or the monsters, will ever hold their breath for the person he really is.
Here Lies Emmett Delacroix.
He died alone, in front of an audience.