It was stupid to assume Nick and I could get away from everything. Two years might have passed, but we were the same idiots we always were. I was the same Meat Head as ever. But River knew the secret. If my brother knew, then logic told me Dad did too. They knew why I left, and they let me leave.
I didn’t escape; I was let go. Worse, they thought I’d come back after failing to make it in the real world.
Before Nick got home that night, I decided to visit Dill Weed downstairs. He lived with his 80-year-old grandmother and sold weed out of his bedroom when he wasn’t changing adult diapers.
“I didn’t know you had a brother,” Dill said after blowing smoke from his lips.
His bedroom was too cloudy to see the door, much less my hand in front of my face.
“Two brothers,” I corrected while taking the joint from his hands to take a long drag while I paced back and forth.
“T Dog, I need you to calm down. You’re killing my buzz,” he remarked from the comfort of his bed with bedsheets featuring porn stars eating hot dogs.
After passing back the grass, I told Dill Weed, “I should probably head back anyway,” but before I left, he sat up and said, “I don’t see what the big deal is. You miss your family; your family misses you. Why not be together?”
“Because I have a new family,” I said.
By 8 or 9 o’clock, I was back upstairs. Of course, Nick was home by then, so when I walked through the door, I could feel his presence even if I didn’t immediately see him. On my way to our bedroom, I found him in the office sitting at his desk. I tried to walk by without disturbing him, but when he looked up, I froze.
“You were with Dill,” he laughed, and I laughed as I walked into the room.
“I was,” I said.
“What happened?” Nick asked.
I was confused until he added, “You only smoke without me when something happens.”
River. That’s what happened, but I didn’t want to say his name.
“It’s nothing,” I said.
“Did Rick threaten to fire you again? He should know by now that place wouldn’t last a week without you,” Nick told me.
“It wasn’t Rick,” I answered without answering.
“Then what was it?”
Nick was working on his comic again, which was odd because he told me it was finished. Maybe he was going to finally add superpowers or color. Either way, the pages under his hands gave me a chance to change the subject.
“How was your day? You talked to Yellow Vest about your comic, right?” I asked, walking around the desk to stand behind his back.
I rested my head atop his head and looked over what seemed to be new pages.
“Don’t call him that,” Nick laughed and started putting away the pages before I got a good look.
He stood up and put the papers away in a filing cabinet, but I was there to hold him up against the wall when he was done.
“I could call him Shit Head Pervert if that’s better,” I joked while running a hand up under his shirt.
“Tom,” he said, protesting if only slightly, so I stopped.
“Tell me what happened with your comic,” I said, taking a step back and sitting on the edge of the desk.
Nick seemed nervous, but he always was about his comic stuff, regardless he told me, “Lance liked it.”
“Yeah, he said I have good line work, and pacing, and..” he stumbled and paused.
“And?” I asked in anticipation.
“He can’t sell it. He doesn’t have room for new comics by amateur artists...and...and It was too gay,” he said.
I thought surely I misheard what he said.
“The comic, Lance won’t sell it because it’s too gay?”
“Isn’t Lance gay?” I asked, already knowing the answer.
“He is, but,” Nick could hardly explain it, and I couldn’t believe it until he added, “He said if I changed one of the main characters into a girl...”
The book was based on our lives.
“So you’d have to either take me or you out of a story about us?” I remarked.
“I don’t want to change anything...but,” Nick said, cutting himself off at the tail.
“It would get you on the shelf,” I finished his thought.
“The story doesn’t make sense without the both of us,” he argued.
He was about to debate everything we both already knew, so I took his hand before he could.
“But it would get you on the shelf? Wouldn’t it,” I said.
Suddenly I understood why he was working on a finished comic. It was sad and a little disappointing. We moved to that city to get away from stuff like that, but twice in the same day, I was shown how impossible it was to get away from the world.
“My brother came to see me today,” I said with a half-smile.