Carrie handed me another note. Again I was in lunch and again it came from Mr. Blok. Unlike the first time, Carrie asked me a question.
“What’s that Dead Club about?”
“I didn’t know you talked.”
“I talk. To the right people.”
“It’s Club Dead. It’s called Club Dead.”
“So far it’s place where people with a lot frustration associated with death come to a room and let some steam off.”
“And what do you do?’
“Do you let off steam?”
“Right. Mind if I come?”
“Why do you want to come? Last time we met you expressed some clear opinions about me.”
“I said nothing.”
“You made your point.”
“I have issues.”
“Dealing with death.”
That surprised me.
“And it sometimes prevents me from speaking politely to people.”
I was not sure whether or not that was an apology.
“Well, yeah, whatever. I mean, of course, you are welcome.”
“Do you need my name?”
“You’re Carrie Unser.”
“What’s your name? The first time I gave you a note it said Fabian Stark, but I was told your name is now CJ Stark.”
“You changed your name?”
“That’s cool. A name change. I live for change.”
Carrie looked upward at a forty-five degree angle.
“Do you have a tattoo?” Carrie asked.
“I do. Want to see it?”
Before I answered Carrie Unser pulled up her yellow blouse from her hip. Slightly behind her hip I saw a grinning red skull. It was about the size of a plum.
“The club members would be very impressed.”
“Would they? I’m not sure they are my type.”
“How do you know them?”
“Brink fills me in.”
“You know Brink?”
“You’re pretty clueless Stark. I like that.”
“Temporarily, that I am. But no, really, they’re okay. Some of them have tattoos. Dawn’s boyfriend is covered in them.”
“What are his tattoos?”
“A bunch of things. Snakes, vines, Lucifer. I think he was going with a biblical motif.”
I touched it. I stirred.
“I have others.”
“How can you say that? I’m always crying.”
“The way you talk. And to run a meeting with that bunch.”
“Want to meet them?”
“Meetings are on Mondays.”
“Do I have to do anything?”
“Do you like to yell and chant?”
“I don’t know. I could try.”
“That’s the spirit. See you Monday.”
Carrie Unser tucked her shirt in and walked away. I threw away my garbage and headed for Mr. Blok’s office.
The constant pressure in my chest remained worrisome, my falling tears remained steady, and I still could not read.
My parents earnestly fretted, sent me to therapy, and assured me that time would work its magic.
Emma had redirected her vast tank of love from her usual directions – our dog and two cats, anonymous elders at the nursing home, mom and dad – and lasered it towards my soul. I have a sweet, sweet sister.
The conditions of my life had not changed for quite a while. Anxiety was not my concern. I was adapting to my chest, tears, disappearance of books, and my unyielding family care.
But in the last two weeks something had happened.
I had started a club and spoken coherently to four new people: Frank, Dawn, Brink and now Carrie Unser.
Frank neared boyfriend status.
I saw Dawn as my Club Dead lieutenant.
Brink and I were business partners.
Carrie Unser might challenge my affection for Frank.
I was not joking myself that I was better.
I accepted the importance of Club Dead. Mr. Blok had been right. I was distracted.
This was no small matter.
And I just touched Carrie’s tattoo.