Chapter 9: Liam
I keep bumping into people, being jostled this way and that while trying to shuffle my way to Times Square. I attempt to break away from my thoughts and start caring about me being shoved like this, but I can’t.
I’ve just been fired from the only job I’ve had.
What am I suppose to do now?
A hysterical laugh bursts from me, high-pitched and incredulous, from me thinking about who else would take me in. No one. No one will. Why? I’m a high school graduate without a college degree. Sure, I have my diploma, but what good will that do me in New York, the largest financial state in the country?
Shaking my head in disgust, I cringe when an elder yet professional-looking man bumps into me without an apology. “’Scuse you,” I shout without looking back, adrenalized by anger, fear and anxiety. Several people glance back at me with annoyed looks, but I just give them a bitchy glare back. I know I’m being an ass. That’s the point, though. Why does it matter when my life is ending anyways?
I’ve got no support for me or Jere. No support for our home. No support for food. Or clothes. Or education. Or games.
What the hell am I going to do?
But even after all of this thinking, I still can’t seem to get it through my head: I don’t have a job anymore.
No more Bentley.
No more Juke Box Hero.
No more giving guitar lessons or hearing a kid being given their first vocal lesson for choir.
If you don’t find yourself a college to go to, you’ll have to find a new job instead, ’cause I’m not employing idiots. It struck hard. And I didn’t know he was so bothered by my smoking; I didn’t even know he knew about it.
But then again, he can see through me like glass.
I need to piece things together now, before it kicks me in the ass and I’m left alone wondering what the hell I’m going to do next. College... really is something I can’t afford to think about. I make a decent wage at Juke’s, barely having enough to live off of what I get. But it’s enough. When Mom and Dad left, they abandoned everything except their clothes and suitcases - all of that was gone the day of. They even left their checkbooks and bank account numbers.
I had been in the ninth grade that day, so the idea of going to college wasn’t so new to me. I’d already signed up for SAT and ACT prep courses for upcoming year for high scores for good colleges to notice me, but sadly those classes never came.
But what did come my first year of elementary school was my College Savings account, where any extra money or spare change was put into it. Since the day they left, I’ve been too scared to check and see if the account is still open.... Because what if it’s not? That means...
I shake my head again.
Bad thoughts on a bad day.
Good timing, Liam.
But if I’ve been fine without their money, I’ll be fine now, right? Why now and not then? This time it’s a little more serious... but we can survive without it.
Another laugh escapes me, but this time I feel like crying.
We’re not fine.
We’re not fine at all.
I bump into another person and I take in a long breath, pushing through people to find a blank spot on the sidewalk where no one’s walking where I can just stand and think things through without. being. freaking. touched.
I’m not sure where I am right now, honestly, but I know that I’m somewhere very loud and very busy. Most likely Times Square already. I conclude this with despair, a person yelling for a taxi adjacent to me. I give her a look, and she blushes, apologizing briefly before fleeing to her cab.
What the hell am I going to do? I wonder again, grabbing two fistfuls of my hair and pulling up as hard as I can. Nothing happens. Just like my life. Nothing happens like I want it to.
Debby’s probably at home with Jeremiah, playing with him and most likely wondering where the hell I am. Jimmy’s still at his classes around this time, and I’m still about ten minutes from home if I keep up with this pace.... which is nonexistent. I better head back soon.
I glance up from the pavement and everything’s this one huge blur. But then something comes into focus - no, someone. A girl. She’s pretty, a tiny figure with capris and a t-shirt on. There’s something different about her, and I can’t seem to place it. The chopped hair? The camera? Or is it the fact that she’s looking right back at me?
... And smiling.
Confused and utterly flustered, I furrow my brows and look away, convinced she’s looking at someone other than me. Why would she be looking at me? I don’t even know her. Glancing around me, I find that no one else is smiling back at her. I... accidentally... lock gazes with her again. But, this time, she’s halfway through the crowd that’s in between us. And she’s walking towards me.
The words confused and flustered come back to mind and I look around again, hoping there’s some kind of answer to this odd situation I’ve been put in. What was I thinking about earlier? Before this even started happening?
But when I lock gazes with the girl again, she’s in front of me.
And I can’t help but wonder what her soft, pink lips would taste like - if they’re sweet like coffee, or minty like toothpaste.
But then she leans in and kisses me.
And my mind goes numb.
And the only thought that comes through is, “neither.”