Chapter 17) Act and play [**]
Brian was one of those guys who always came prepared. A roof that needed to be fix, an angry neighbor who complained, a kid that couldn’t afford his payment for their fieldtrip. Brian was the guy who made the timetables, counted the cash-book twice, and always –always- knew one way or another to keep things running.
Brian was the boss, and if he could he’d let that be printed on a tee or a button or make it his license plate… because Brian was the boss and had some kind of magical gift of keeping Hope House open. Of course you had to look through the plastering walls and occasional leakage in the office. And music class. And the heater should get fix before Fall and the playground wasn’t exactly safe, but you all had to look through that and see the big picture.
For a lot of kids Hope House was a safe haven, a time off from all their problems. A place to relax, work on your social skills, anger or simply have a place to do homework.
For him Hope House was his penance because he’d been drunk more than sober during his darker chapters, but that book slammed shut the moment he crashed his brother’s car into a tree and killed his best friend in the process. You sober up pretty fast when your face feels like battered pulp and you see your best friend since high school gurgle out his last breath… just because you where a drunken asshole who felt the great need to get out of town in the middle of the night to do something stupid. Andy of course couldn’t let him go on his own because Andy was wasted too, but he knew him longer than today and had a hunch.
He was going to drink himself insane that night, at least that bad been the plan, but instead he killed his best friend. And of course his therapist kept hammering that Andy made the choice himself to sit next to him, knowing he was drunk.
It didn’t make the grieving process any easier, nor did the fact that Andy’s parents forbade him to come to the funeral. Haven’t you done enough?! Andy’s dad had screamed, right before punching him in the nose. Andy’s mom had ushered her husband away and quietly asked him to leave. And he did, while instead he’d wanted to stay and ask Andy’s dad to beat the living shit out of his sorry ass, to break his fucking face down starting from top and slowly going down. And he would simply hold still and turn the other cheek because he deserved it; he fucking deserved being beat till blood was pouring.
For a while AA meetings, therapy sessions, and charity work was the only thing he’d been doing. Because he was ‘lucky’ his father didn’t want a son in jail and got him the best lawyer money could buy, a fancy way of saying he’d been bought out of jail.
To Brian it had felt like blood money, and ever since a stupid argument, he’d stopped calling his dad and occasionally met up with his mother; his siblings had given up on him long before his father and broke off all contact.
He didn’t sleep well, didn’t eat much, and spend most of his time feeling resentment and self-loathing. After a while that broke him up, so he called his therapist in the middle of the night and got a wakeup call.
If you feel like changing, then change. It’s as simple as that Brian. And strangely enough, the day after, he did. He spilled his guts and every bit of his dignity during the AA meeting, bawling like a baby, and went to church. That didn’t help at all; it didn’t give him the bigger picture and he didn’t see the light.
‘Because that actually takes a crap ton of time,’ Brian though, going through mail and bills, with more bills and sponsor cuts in the future. He needed more coffee, lots of it, and to find new, creative ways to finance the walls that kept Hope House standing.
“Look what the cat dragged in,” Brain muttered, surprised to see Frank stumble in after Adam, squinting his eyes against the bright light and trying to balance on both feet.
“I saw him passed out in the park when I was walking the dog,” Adam informed, tapping Clover on the head who drooled gleefully on the floor, wagging with the stump that once had been a tail.
“I wasn’t passed out,” Frank retorted, trying to ruffle his hair back under control. “I was chilling.”
Brain didn’t buy that, even without the curtain of booze and cigarettes that hung around Frank.
“Right,” he said, getting up from his desk and gesturing to Adam to leave them alone. The janitor nodded, grabbed the dog by her collar, and marched out.
Frank looked beyond miserable, like he was raised from the dead and found it an unfortunate event. Brian didn’t say much besides ‘sit down’ and ‘want some water?’ He grabbed some Advil with that and watched Frank gulp it all down.
“Does your foster family know where you are?” Brain asked when Frank’s skin color lost most hints of green.
“They think they do,” Frank said sheepish, staring blankly at his empty glass. “I’m at a friend’s, making some kind of project about stars and shit.”
“Must be one hell of a project,” Brain commented, and Frank nodded confirming.
“Do you maybe have some gum? I kinda threw up a couple of times.” Frank asked plucking at his fingernails and hunched forward over the table. “Going to puke.”
Brain was just quick enough to bring the trashcan from across the room into Frank’s reach. The boy heaved a couple of times, threw up, and miserably lay his forehead down onto the table, moaning “urgh.”
While Frank was trying to keep the rest of it in his stomach, Brian took Frank’s file out of the archive and got a pen. “Are you drunk?”
“Did you get high?”
“Pretty much. It was just a stupid party, alright?” Frank muttered grumpy from the table.
“Sure kid,” Brain sniggered; he’d been at those kind of parties. Thrown by –whatshisname- where you meet up with –whatsherface- until you reach the kitchen counter or coffee table.
“Now, this is what we’re going to do,” he pulled a chair close and sat down, clasping his hands together. He stared down at Frank until he stubbornly sat up, refusing to look him straight in the face.
“You’re going to take a shower at our gym. I’ll fix you up with some clean clothes, and then you’re going to do some good deeds.”
Frank eyed at him, raising his eyebrows in surprise, “You’re not going to call my foster folks?”
“I didn’t say that.” Frank’s gaze immediately struck down, and he heard the boy curse venomously under his breath. “I’m going to call them up, tell them you’re going to do a good job today, and that Gerard will take you back home on time for dinner so you’ll have enough time to study and do your homework.”
Frank looked a bit blown away and sheepishly frowned. “And if I don’t feel much for that?”
“Then I’m afraid I’ll have to report you, Frank. Luckily we do things a little different at Hope’s. The last thing I want is you packing your bags up for Juvi or see your face on Missing people. You got potentials kid, you got the brains and the willpower else you wouldn’t be sitting here in one piece.”
“Of course, because you know me like my best friend for fucking ever,” Frank retorted sharply and got very busy with chewing on the ends of his sleeve.
“I read your file. Those papers leave out about eight percent of detail and information. You were six when you got placed into our foster care system. Now tell me, how many homes have you seen through the years?”
Frank shrugged, toying with his lip ring and concentrated intensely at his thumbnail, “A lot.”
“And how long did you live on the streets?” Brian pressed.
“A while,” Frank answered soft, breathing deeply in and shakily out.
“We get a lot of kids here Frank, a lot of kids like you; some make it through these shitty years. We got a hall of fame for kids who graduate, and one guy, Joey, made it to Stanford. Some however, don’t make it through, and believe me you, don’t want a state’s funeral, Frank; they serve shitty cake and coffee.”
Frank only raised an eyebrow and shrugged. “So, am I playing babysit again?”
“No, today the kids are off to the playground on the other side of the city, and you’re not working with kids while having a hangover. Policy and common sense... Sorry, Frank, you’re going to do something excruciating boring, but it’ll keep your occupied, believe me.”
“I… fourteen, I- fourteen…” ‘I can’t believe I’m doing this…’ Through the senior centre, a lot of grumpy mumbling echoed. Not so fast, talk louder, I- what?! were the basic feedbacks he’d been getting ever since Brain shoved him down on a chair being a bingo wheel. This might be more embarrassing then the time he was begging random strangers for their empty cans.
For the record, little foster fuck Iero was summoning up numbers for a bingo. Elderly couples mumbled and complained, about him and the way he summoned up the numbers. A few nagged about his attitude. In the back was a table with four widows; one of them had told him at the start he reminded her of her grandson. He’s such a little brat, she’d told him firmly, nearly poking one of his eyes out with her boney old fingers. Another old grandpa had tried to hit him with a stick; the guy smelled like toothpaste and dental floss. He gave Frank the creeps.
This was torture, Frank decided. This was pure and inhumane torture, to let a teenager sit in the middle of prehistoric fossils who are out to scold at him and club him to death with their sticks.
If someone would only hand him a gun, just to end this.
After around of forty-five minutes, a volunteer came up to Frank’s table and told him he could take a break. Frank was so grateful for the ten minute break, he could kiss the guy right on the spot. But Frank suspected ninety percent of everyone around him had fake teeth, so instead he nodded and tottered outside with his hands in his pockets and a mood to kill.
He could just run off… Playing with that thought, he leaned back against the wall and took out a cigarette. He could just run off and forget all about this ridiculous crap. He didn’t have to wait two years, two endless long years, to be free. He could just walk through the crowd of grey hairs and knitting chitchat, dodge a wooden stick, and just make another run for it. He could go back to the streets… yes, he so definitely could. Right now he had his precious little baby face again, no bruises and no drug related scabs. He could easily pass for fourteen, maybe younger. You had a lot of really lonely fouls who would feel bad for a poor prepubescent runaway. He could act up another role; maybe this time he could be Diego, fake some heartbreaking stories about domestic abuse and how his soulless father would beat the living shit out of his body after he’d been drinking.
He could fake that, he could tear up if he needed to and fiddle off a good few bucks from credulous pedophiles who longed to take care of a little boy. Idiots, they could be so naïve towards everything that reeked underage.
While smoking, pieces of the puzzle started to fit. He had enough money to leave New Jersey far behind, maybe hitchhike a little bit to save some money; you never knew when you needed it most. He could get himself some new clothes; that would save him the trip back to his foster parents, the sooner the fucking better. He could shave his head, shave his chin, shave… well pretty much everything beneath the belt and step into a new life, of the twelve year old Diego who was looking for love and a father figure.
He could do that. He would take his piercings out, but maybe instead of shaving all his hair off, he could get it dyed; blondes always did better.
Leaning from one foot to the other, Frank inhaled and breathed out deeply. Could he go through that again? Be someone else, yet so close to him personally. Could he tiptoe between being endlessly sky high and loathing himself so much he’d try to scratch off all the dirty feelings with razorblades? Could he face the overweight old perves and listen to their endless love poems, their sugar sweet words that made him want to vomit all over them, soak them with gasoline and turn them into a pretty Christmas light?
Tears swelled up in the corners of his eyes, and he had to crane his head upwards to keep them in, to keep it all in. Be that stuck up little bitch with an attitude, else you won’t survive. He swallowed weakly, digging his chewed up fingernails deep into the skin of his wrists.
He didn’t want them to call him pretty; he didn’t want their fatherly affection, their sugar sweet words. It was all fake, untrue, lies. They didn’t love him the way a father would… no man should love a child they way they did. Those men should get their junk cut off; they were worse than the faceless fucks he gave inside cars or inside an alley. That was strictly business, an act for a price, without loving whispers, without hugs and cradling.
No, he couldn’t become Diego, because sooner or later he would fall in love, in his sick mangled form of love. He would start to crave for their attention again, their affection, and believe the lies.
He couldn’t go through that again. He needed to be stable and stay away from any kind of urge to care and love.
Then he had to think of what Brain said, or well, the blurs of what he’d picked up inside the office. Some kids make it, and some don’t. Some kids get out, and some kids die. That was basically what the big boss of Hope had said.
Did he want to die? Frank had thought a lot about that question, and not just since Brain brought it up. Dying and killing himself where every day questions. They casually passed him by, routinely. Did he want to die? No, not really. He just wanted peace of mind. He wanted to forget, he wanted to wake up one day with no memory at all and then live. Start to get a life, without his past catching up with him. A clean slate, a new beginning, a new face, name, body, mind.
“Hey Frank, are you coming back in?” A volunteer called to him, and with a simple shrug, he staggered back inside.
If anyone would like to aim shoot and kill me I can’t blame you. I’ve disappeared from this site and honestly I don’t know when I will be able to update again. I… well my real life is just in the big picture, I live on my own have a pretty kick ass job and then there is this thing as social life and responsibilities. In other words, as a writer I’m screwed because I hardly find the time to do what I love most. As a person it’s pretty swell.
Who’s still on board, I’d like to hear back from you guys,
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