Oh my God, my head is killing me, Seth thought to himself as he slowly slipped back into consciousness the next morning. What the fuck did I do last night?
Peeking open his eyes, Seth realized at once that he was not in his bedroom. He wasn’t even in his apartment. Instead, he was apparently in Karen’s apartment. Glancing over to his left, he glimpsed Karen’s back. She was sitting at the table, where she was most likely eating breakfast. Karen always ate breakfast. The first time that Seth had slept over at Karen’s, that had really freaked him out. Seth didn’t know hardly anyone that still ate breakfast. But Karen did. Every day. Even if it was something real quick and easy, like grabbing an apple, orange, or banana on her way out the door.
Well, if Karen is still here, and eating breakfast, I haven’t slept through work yet . . . Seth considered for a moment. Unless of course, I slept the entire day through and today is tomorrow.
“Well good morning, Seth,” Karen said, turning around and making eye contact with him. “How are you feeling today?”
Seth considered the question for a moment. He actually wasn’t in too much pain (other than his head, of course). “My head is killing me, but I don’t feel too bad anywhere else.”
“That’s good,” Karen nodded, turning back around. “Do you think you’re going to come into work today, or would it be better to stay here and take a personal day?”
“Definitely a personal day, today,” Seth said without a moment’s hesitation. “Most definitely a personal day.”
“All right,” Karen nodded. “Make sure you stay here until I get home.”
“Ok, Mom,” Seth laughed, laying back again. “I promise not to go anywhere today.”
“Good, good,” Karen nodded again. “I’ll tell Hooker that you’re not feeling well today.”
“Oh, man, he’s going to be pissed.”
“He is not,” she laughed. “You keep forgetting something, Seth.”
“Oh?” he inquired. “And what is that?”
“He likes me,” she snorted joyfully. “But I’ll make sure they hear that you’re sick today but plan on taking some aspirin and coming in tomorrow, ok?”
“Yeah, yeah,” he said. “Sounds good.”
Karen was just about to leave when Seth remembered to ask her a question that he always asked her: “I didn’t do or say anything that I’d regret, did I?”
The look that appeared on Karen’s face surprised (and confused) him. She made a face, but ultimately said a quiet, “No. Nothing you’d regret.”
Seth accepted the answer on good faith and closed his eyes again. A few minutes later, he heard the door open and shut, and then he knew he was alone. He drifted in and out of sleep for a while, but when he did finally nod off, a disturbing dream took over in his mind.
I hope I’m dreaming, Seth thought to himself. He was pretty sure that he was dreaming; after all, everything that was around him was black and white. So, unless he had all of a sudden become color-blind, he had to be dreaming. But anyway, looking at the gray figure that was standing right in front of them, Seth saw that the figure belonged to his brother. But it wasn’t his brother that he saw today; it was his brother back when he was twelve. The way he looked the last day before he left home and joined the gang. Oh yeah, he thought, I am definitely dreaming.
“Seth!” the little boy cried out. Man, it was exactly the same tone of Logan’s voice, all those years ago. “Help me, Seth! Don’t let them take me!”
“I can’t help you!” Seth screamed in agony. “You left us, don’t you see?”
“Seth!” the little boy tried again. “Don’t leave me! Please don’t leave me, again!”
“I didn’t leave you!” Seth shouted, clutching his head. “You left me!”
The little boy suddenly started to grow, shaping up to the modern day version of Logan. As Seth watched him grow and get the scars that had shown on his body yesterday that Seth had no idea how they had appeared on his kid brother’s body, he tried (to no avail) to block the sight. But he was unable to do it. Even when he closed his eyes, he still saw Logan standing in front of him. He couldn’t escape the nightmare. His brother was apparently staying. No matter what, apparently.
“Logan,” Seth whispered, “please, I’m begging you, just leave me alone. Why do you always have to come running to me?”
“Because I know that you will do something. It’s brother0code, after all.”
“Like hell it is,” Seth grumbled. “If it were brother code, I never would have lost you in the first place.”
“I’m not the older brother,” imaginary Logan said flatly. “You are. You can’t escape the fact that I am your baby brother. You have to protect me. You have to take care of me. No matter what. It’s what big brothers do.”
Seth really despised being the “big brother” sometimes. Like right now. For once (or an obnoxious uncountable number of times), he really just wished that he could turn his back on his brother. Logan had done nothing, their entire lives, that should make Seth want to help him. But like imaginary Logan had said, that didn’t really matter. Not for a big brother. Not for a good big brother. Because that was what Seth was: a really fucking good big brother. It didn’t matter that Logan had fucked up and hurt both Seth and his mom more ways than Seth could even begin to imagine. It didn’t matter. Logan was here, now. And, as stupid as it sounded, if Logan knew that Seth worked for the Chicago Tribune, then, there must be some small part of him that had been keeping tabs on his older brother. Why he would do that was another question entirely, but he had been keeping tabs on where his brother was. Did that mean that perhaps Logan had not written him out of his life as completely as Seth had thought?
Wanting an answer to that question and having no better ideas about how to get a reply (at the moment, at any rate), Seth asked Logan, “Why did you ask me? Why did you ask me now?”
But unfortunately for Seth, imaginary Logan didn’t answer him. He only smiled a very sad smile and shrugged. Maybe it was because imaginary Logan could only answer questions that Seth already knew the answer to.
Of course he wouldn’t be able to tell me that, Seth thought bitterly, glaring at his baby brother’s face. God, he made him so fucking angry! Why did he have to have a baby brother that was involved in one of the largest gangs in the Midwest? Yeah, Logan was still alive, but what would Seth do if he had finally decided to change his life, and then all of a sudden he was killed? How the hell was Seth going to deal with that?
He sort of hoped that the imaginary Logan would comment on that thought, but of course, he didn’t. No, why would he? Apparently, imaginary Logan could only comment on things that had already happened. Well, fuck dream Logan, Seth thought again, letting the hate seep into the thought. He’s being a number one, first class, ass hole. To come into my fucking head and tell me that I have to help him, just because I am the older brother? No! NO! Damn it, it isn’t fair!
Why was it so unfair? Why was his brother able to have such a hold on him? Why was Logan able to have such an affect on his big brother? Seth hadn’t seen Logan in three years. Three fucking years. He thought of him from time to time, but it was always in blinding rage. But seeing him for five minutes today blew all of that boiling hatred right off the fucking stove.
Bolting upright, Seth was panting and soaked from his waist up to his head. His hair was dripping from the sweat that he was in. How long had he been out? The dream had felt so real. So . . . tangible. Glancing at the clock, Seth saw that he had managed to sleep for a couple of hours . . . although, he wasn’t sure how much that sleep should count. After all, he had felt like he was awake for the majority of the dream. Dragging his feet out from under the covers, Seth walked over to the cupboard and grabbed a glass. Filling it with cold tap water, he stood at Karen’s faucet and tried to remember what had happened the night before.
Trying to remember was hard, though. He could only recall bits and pieces throughout the night. He remembered the odd feeling he had at home before Karen came to pick him up. He had started drinking as an escape route. There weren’t many times that Seth had wanted to be so intoxicated that he would black out, but last night had been exactly one of those times. Seth actually wanted to be blacked out for a long time when he started drinking last night. He remembered having the thought that he wanted to be as intoxicated as Pete was every night for a year. Today, experiencing the hangover of one night of being that drunk was making him rethink that initial plan, but still, that was his original thought last night.
By the time Karen showed up at his apartment, he was well past the “tipsy” stage of drinking. Having four or five straight shots of whiskey would do that to a man. What happened after Karen showed up was spotty at best . . . he knew that they went to drink with Pete, Zeke, and Billy. And, he thought he remembered seeing Will and Emi at some point last night, too. But what had they all done? Maybe he should call Pete. Pete was a much more tolerant guy with alcohol than Seth ever had been. Surely he could remember some of what happened the night before? Or, maybe Karen could fill him in. Seth knew that Karen wouldn’t have been drinking last night. She never drank when she was the designated driver. Karen was very reliable in that regard.
But what had he said? The last time he had gotten black-out drunk, he had been trying to keep pace with Pete, but he had failed, in the end. Obviously, it wasn’t that great of a story, but he did have some pretty hilarious videos (courtesy iPhones, Zeke, and Will) of him and Pete doing a lot of tremendously stupid things. What if he said something to Karen about liking her? Or asked her why she hadn’t made a move yet? She made a move on everybody, after all. So why hadn’t she made a move on him? Was it because he was more of a “brother” type to her? He really hoped that wasn’t the case, but hell, what else could it be? She knew that he wasn’t gay, so that was not a possible explanation for the lack of moves.
It really must be that she simply does not like me, he thought to himself. That has to be it.
But why didn’t she like him? They really were kind of perfect for each other. She was outgoing, crazy, blunt, and (when she got really tired) incredibly sweet and loving. She was beautiful. She was kind of like a diamond in the rough. She had a really tough exterior, but once you got close enough to see all of her, she was stunning. Seth had gotten close enough to see that. He had been close enough to see that for years. It wasn’t that he thought they were going to get married, have a huge family, and travel the world together (after all - journalists did not make nearly enough money to do that anymore), but he so badly wanted to take her out on a date. Just one date. That was all he was asking of the Gods, the fates, the Shaman kings and queens . . . Anything that may be listening to his plea. But he never received an answer.
I just need to forget about it, he thought to himself. She’s had years to tell you that she feels the same way, and she hasn’t. Take the hint and just move on.
Though he really didn’t want to do that, it looked like the safest option. Heaving a sigh, he dragged himself up to go take a shower.