We Are All Too Young to Die
- 8 months ago
- 8 min read
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It’s been four months since we became a triad, as Karen calls it, or a triforce, as I like to call it, even if Jesse doesn’t get the reference. It’s been—good. Really good. I’m trying to let myself enjoy this for once in my life instead of questioning everything. Especially because there’s so much other shit going on now.
First major change is that we ditched Roxie and Kent. Motherfuckers still wanna work with the cops even after everything they’ve done. They’re so busy pleasing White people that they don’t realize they’re stepping on everyone else’s backs to kiss their asses. It’s absurd that New Angeles still has a police department at all, even if it is on its last legs.
Whatever. I’ve had dozens of conversations with Roxie and Kent, but they keep playing into model minority bullshit. I mean, I’d hate to be them. Poor suckers still think the world is fair. They find all kinds of ways to explain away the gaps and faults in the system. Two sides to every story; Devil’s advocate. I guess accepting that cops are useless would break their brains. We all have to have some kind of hope to cling to right now, and that one’s theirs—that the cops represent any kind of justice or fairness in the world.
Because Roxie and Kent still believe the cops can help them find their parents.
Well, best of luck to them. The last good cop, if such a thing exists, quit the NAPD a couple weeks ago. Ramiro Morales Medina. He’s working with some community organizations, which was how we got to know him and his girlfriend Constance. They’re sweet. Seem more wholesome than the three of us, at least. I’d almost think they were vanilla if not for the collar around Constance’s neck. It’s subtle, but it’s gotta have a lock of some kind. Ain’t a regular necklace.
So we’ve been keeping busy running errands and doing other odd jobs for them. Constance told us early on that she’s a werewolf, which I never would’ve expected, but I guess you can’t tell when it’s not the full moon. Shows how much I know about werewolves. Been learning a lot just watching Constance work to get lycan communities, especially immigrant ones, connected to resources and support. I figured immigrants would be having a tough time now, but I never thought about how being a werewolf would make everything that much harder.
There’s another thing I didn’t anticipate, that I couldn’t have known just by sight, like how I didn’t know Constance is a werewolf until she told me. It turns out Karen is nonbinary. Which doesn’t change much of the day-to-day stuff. She still uses the same name and pronouns. She just said that sometimes, she likes to be in a more masculine headspace, and that she often doesn’t feel like she fits what it means to be a woman. But I could say that of myself, too. The fuck does being masculine mean, anyway? Macho, is what I was taught, but I’ve never been that.
Still, I guess I don’t have to get it. I just said “okay” and asked some more questions, and she seemed happy with that. She also told me during that conversation that she’s Blasian. She passes more for Asian, but aside from talking about her family’s background, Karen doesn’t care for talking about race. (Constance, meanwhile, won’t shut up about it.) Me, I’m somewhere between the two of them. Aware of race, but in a background way, like a nightlight.
We’ve been settling into a rhythm, the three of us. Something easy and fluid. I never thought that love could feel like this: waking up next to the same people, fitting our lives around each other, opening up to one another. I thought I knew everything about Jesse, but turns out there’s some shit you might tell your girl that you won’t tell your homie. Though I guess I’m not just a friend anymore. Boyfriend? Doesn’t feel right, like how it’s starting to feel right to call Karen my girl. “Partner” isn’t it. Somehow “chavo” feels the most comfortable. It still means “boyfriend,” but… differently. More comfortably. Less likely for people to already have ideas about, maybe. I don’t know.
Words have never been my strong point. I didn’t know what to say when Jesse told me he has bipolar, either. He looked so nervous, though—something I rarely see him show. I wanted to say something before he mistook my silence for negativity. I shrugged, hoping that my words would come out reassuring instead of dismissive.
“Hey man, everyone’s battling something,” I said. “I’m depressed more often than not. I don’t think any different of you.”
A second passed. Then, I reached out and put a hand on his thigh, just to show him I was there. And when he ducked his head, a tell for him trying to hide his tears, I knew that that was enough.
Someone Constance works with has a cabin up in Big Bear and gave her an open invitation to use it. I swear, that girl has connects everywhere, but I guess that’s what happens when your job is talking to people. In any case, Constance and Ramiro wanted to stay in New Angeles to get some last-minute tasks done for their next rally. I offered to help, but Constance practically forced us to take a vacation—forced me, really. I will admit that I haven’t been sleeping much lately. I kept telling Constance she didn’t need to hook us up like this, but she insisted. It’s been a while since any of us got a proper vacation, so Karen and Jesse bullied me into taking her up on it.
The accident happens as we’re on the road to Big Bear. Weather’s just starting to cool down; snow dots the shrubs lining the road as Jesse’s Camaro zooms up the mountainside. Maybe he’s being reckless like he is sometimes and is going too fast. Maybe there’s a patch of ice we don’t see. Either way, we’re ramming into the guard rail, spinning; we nearly hit oncoming traffic. The Camaro swings into the mountain wall and creaks up onto its two driver-side wheels, right there on the cusp of flipping, before it crashes back down onto its tires, bouncing hard enough to make me feel like my head’s gonna be snapped off.
It’s a miracle no one’s hurt. Karen’s shaking and I feel faint, but nothing’s broken or bruised. Jesse can go into calm mode so fast it’s scary—I wonder now if that’s some kind of skill he’s developed to deal with the surges of emotion that he told me about. No one else was involved, so we don’t bother calling highway patrol. Cops wouldn’t be able to do jack shit for us anyway. But we’re close enough to Big Bear that we’ve got enough reception for Jesse to call a body shop in town able to repair a Chevy. Car’s busted up too bad for us to drive it any further, but we hitched a ride with the tow truck. Jesse makes some light conversation with the driver. He’s handling everything well, like he’s got a mask on.
But as soon as we get into the cabin, toe off our shoes, and set down our stuff, Jesse’s mask breaks.
“Fuck,” he says, collapsing into the couch and holding his head in his hands. “Fuck.”
“Hey,” Karen says, going immediately to his side. “We’re okay. You’re okay. Accidents happen.”
“No,” Jesse says, voice shaking. “I shouldn’t have been going that fast. I could’ve killed all of us.”
“Just don’t do it again,” Karen says, putting a hand on his shoulder. “You know I’ve told you to drive with more care. Take that to heart.”
Jesse scrubs a hand over his face. Runs it through his hair, agitated, only getting more so as Karen keeps trying to soothe him. Karen’s being sweet, but I know Jesse doesn’t respond to that kind of tenderness in moments like these. I stand in front of him, interrupting Karen as I meet his gaze and cross my arms over my chest.
“That’s right fuckwad, you almost killed us. For what—so you could feel badass for a couple seconds?” I sneer. “Nah, man. We’re too young to die.”
Jesse looks like he’s about to talk back, but he knows he’s got no defense. And I’m more aching and exhausted than angry. But this is what he expects of me, and how I know to respond to him; this is what will get him out of a self-hating spiral: me giving him a valve to vent his emotions. Sometimes it takes a fistfight to get his feelings out. Other times, all I have to do is look him in the eye long enough to break him down.
Today’s closer to the latter. The silence hangs between us for uncomfortably long. Karen looks like she’s about to say something, but I shoot her a look, and she shuts her mouth. Finally, Jesse lets out a long breath, his head hanging, tension still lining his neck and arms.
“Yeah,” he says, voice dipping to a murmur. “I know. I’m sorry.”
That’s the most I’m going to be able to get out of him, but it’s sincere, and it’s what Karen and I need to hear. So I uncross my arms and sit on his other side.
“How long until the repairs are done?” I ask.
“Three days,” Jesse replies.
“So,” Karen says, a familiar smile unfurling over lips, “Just us, stuck in a cabin for a few days?”
“Yeah,” Jesse says, chuckling. “Could be worse.”
“Could it?” I say. Jesse elbows me in the side, hard, which is how I know he’s okay.
READ MORE: https://december-seas.com/fiction/we-are-all-too-young-to-die/