Chapter 2 Uncomfortably Numb
I knocked on the door of my parents house, and after a fluster of sound, my mother opened the door. She hugged me and my father passed me walking from one room to the other and patted me on the arm. She also looked flushed in the face and a great deal happier than usual.
“Where's your jacket” she said “It's too cold to be without a jacket but there is great news, so come in” she gleamed, “Your brother is getting married!”.
I looked into the other room and saw my uncle lazing in a recliner, throwing back a scotch, sitting with Anton who rose to his feet excitedly pulling a slim brunette from beside him. He looked taller than usual somehow. He wore an almost cliché white T shirt and jeans with tan Colorado ankle boots, unlaced. I always felt small next to Anton, even though I am not really short, but somehow he came off as GI JO and I was left as Peter Parker – without the powers. Anton, was in fact not Anton - his name at birth was Antoine, but after the teasing and bullying in primary school, by the time he changed to high school and grew nearly a foot in the summer holidays, he would only let people call him Anton. By the time he was 18, he made it official on his passport and never liked to be reminded.
Anton had been the sort of big brother that was impossible to grow up with without developing some kind of complex. He was good at sports, I was not. He never studied, but dragged his arse over the line somehow anyway. He never saved, he gave me noogies throughout primary and into the first year of high school until my mother ended the torture. My father felt it was character building that I should retaliate myself. I still have no idea what she threatened him with to this day that made him stop. He attracted girls like crazy and made any night out a party. I’d wished I was him since I was little. And here he was engaged, and I was not, happy, and I was not, next thing he would be having kids and I would be visiting his house for family get togethers surrounded by mini Antons. He would probably start his own football team with children he and his new wife, whose name I didn’t even know yet, had together. Then they would live happily ever after. No effort, no pain, just because it was bliss to be him. I must have looked dazed because my mother placed her hand on my cheek.
“Matthias?” she exclaimed in her lilting accent. “Are you alright?”
“Yes – of course” I sputtered.
Anton reached me by then and gave me a half hug before proudly declaring: “Matt – this is Evie, we are getting married.” She smiled politely and he punched me on the arm. He still had a touch of accent left in his voice, but it was barely detectable.
“Aren’t you going to say anything brother?” I had plenty I wanted to say. Some swear words were included.
“That’s fantastic news” I heard myself say instead. “I am really happy for you – both”. I tried to sound enthusiastic as well as honest. I think I failed on both counts. “Welcome to the family” I said as I leant in to give her a welcoming hug. As we leaned into each other I whispered in her ear: “You still have time to get out.” She laughed and everyone smiled as though I were being cute somehow, but I think I meant it.
Anton and Evie retreated back into the lounge room and my uncle raised a toast to me as I passed by the lounge room door and proceeded down the short corridor towards the kitchen. I joined my parents at the dinner table in a spot facing the kitchen as my mother had something boiling on the stove and was sure to continue the conversation half yelling from where she stood.
“Where is Sarah?” my father asked causing me to wince.
“…and what did she say about the trip” my mother asked clearly excited to hear more good news. She lifted the lid and started stirring madly, as she did frequently.
“We broke up." the words stuck in my throat before I swallowed to steady myself. "She broke up with me." I clarified. Her face fell and she dropped the spoon back into the pot to come over to hug me again, this time to offer comfort.
My father banged his fist lightly on the counter. “You go back and tell her it is not going to happen” my father stated.
“I don’t think it quite works like that” I smiled weakly. I appreciated his way of offering support.
“Why not! You tell her you are the best person for her – she would be lucky to have you”. He exclaimed as though that would fix everything nicely.
“She already has somebody else Dad”. I felt sick.
There was a long pause as he re-assessed the situation. Pursing his lips, I could practically predict what he was going to say. “It is the study you do, it is not very….” He trailed off.
“Masculine”. I finished. “We can’t all be mechanics you know. I love art. Some pieces especially can tell you a whole world just in a look”.
“What world?” he replied clearly baffled. I reminded myself it was out of concern for me. “This is the world!” He gestured around the room and I rolled my eyes before he continued to a different tangent. He snorted and patted me on the back.
Retreating back to her cooking, my mother dragged my father by the sleeve to the kitchen with her as she interjected. “You are too smart for her, too good, don’t listen to your father”. She wiped floury hands on her black pants as she spoke. She lived in slacks and non iron shirts, my mother. A ‘revolution of the feminine’ she called it. 'Pants make better sense' she would say regularly. I remembered her wearing dresses maybe five times in my life. She was a good looking woman for her age, and had not let time expand her waistline like my dad. Mom kept working full time at the bank where she started after Anton and I had gone back to school, and now she was in charge of a credit department. Grandkids, before retirement, would get her to stop working.
Mom wore that warning look on her face as she looked at my father. Not one of alarm, but one of caution. The type of look I think Mothers must get sent to some school to learn after they give birth. Dad on the other hand wore a look much like a toddler – bewildered and confused as to what he had done to earn the painstaking, eye ball piercing look. He threw his hands up half heartedly as she whispered heavily as though I wouldn’t hear in the small apartment:
“You let him be, he is a fine boy with a good heart. Stop being so hard on him.” I overheard her say.
“I am not hard on him, I love him, I want his life to be happy but he is so….. delicate. He should be more like his brother”. I shuddered at my fathers reply. More like my brother, more like Anton. Sheesh. Mom hit him with the wooden spoon on the shoulder.
“Two like Anton!” my mother all but cried out. “I would be stuck in the house with three oafs instead of two. Matthias, thank God…” she threw her hands in the air in a grand gesture “….is my good boy. Anton is unfortunately like you”. She poked the spoon back in his face melodramatically causing him to smile.
My father’s voice dropped slightly and he drew in closer to her: “I thought you liked me once”. He sidled over to her. “Twice at least”. He smiled and moved to embrace her; She smiled back but wagged the spoon in the air in a mock threatening gesture, before leaning in to a kiss. My stomach lurched, though it was sweet they loved each other so much still, there were some things children were just not to see in their parents. I was thankful when my uncle shuffled in, helping himself to another scotch. While I averted my eyes, he sat down across the table to detract from a my view into the kitchen.
My uncle was dressed in a neat brown suit and carried himself with a confidence and relaxation that only came from many years of working successfully in a position of authority. The car dealership he had started working at many years ago as a detailer had earned him promotion after promotion over the years until he had finally purchased the shop four years ago.
“Matt, I am sorry to hear what happened.” My uncle drawled as he swished his scotch around the glass. “But if you want I can take those tickets off your hands – same price you paid, I had to get a present for your cousin Sandra anyhow – she finished her studies this year, and got an internship at some big laboratory – somewhere next to where her
“Theo. I don’t know. I just…. I don’t know what I want anymore”. I rubbed my face with my hands. And slumped my elbows on the table with a clunk.
“Matt. Do this one job for me - four days and you fly home. $5,000.00. You can have plenty of time to think about what you want. No one else. It is a beautiful car. Pick up a girl, pick up three – just not in the car”. My uncle was making good sense but I was still reluctant.
I smiled but hung my head down. The thought of me being that person. Theo grabbed my shoulder. “I mean it. You won’t be young forever. You do everything right, you are a good boy, but you deserve to have some fun, and you need to take a break right now. Am I wrong? If you leave tomorrow, you can be there by Friday, back home on a flight by Saturday. $5,000.00 is a lot of money”.
“So why not ship it, get someone else to drive it. It is a lot of money Theo”.
“The person who bought it wants it by next week for some party. They said I can only send it with someone I trust like family. They probably want to make sure they can show it off to all their rich friends in time. I don’t know, I don’t care. For that kind of money, paid on the spot, I promised I would get it there, and you are family. I can trust you. This is a one of a kind car. You might not ever get to drive another one”.
"Paid on the spot?" I remarked, dubious.
“In cash!" he enthused. "Some large man looking like a wrestler came by and took care of it yesterday."
"Why didn't they drive it?"
He shrugged. "Who knows. In my line of business, who cares? For that kind of money, I don't care what they want or why. Will you do this for me Matthias? For family?"
Anton and his girlfriend burst through from the room next door laughing but straightened up when they saw me, though not without difficulty. I looked at how happy they seemed. Simply together. No magic proposals outside the Louvre, no long term planning and saving. What did I have? My degree I may never use; my quiet demeanour which limited my social life. I even dressed in colours that were neutral so I could blend in better to everything around me. All side-effects from trying to hide from a good noogy-ing no doubt. I didn’t begrudge Anton, don’t get me wrong, but in that moment I was so deafeningly angry with myself. What the hell was wrong with me? Trying hard got me nothing, and in my eagerness to please Sarah, I had not only neglected my family, but failed to thrive in myself. My stomach turned as thoughts, and regrets churned like acid inside me. I needed to get away, run, even if just for a short while.
“Theo- What time do you want me in the morning”?
“Good boy” he said grabbing my cheek with gusto. He smiled broadly and exclaimed again, “Good boy. I’ll see you 7:00am, I will have everything you need, and you get a good night’s rest”. Which I did once I got home.
At first, arriving at my apartment I hesitated at the lock on my front door, taking deep breaths as a wash of things I could say, do or find came over me. My hand felt the warming metal under my grip as I stood there, and sighed loudly.
Eventually, under much psychological duress, in spite of all the pain I thought was about to come my way, I opened the door to face Sarah, to find the room was dark. There was a note on the table in Sarah’s handwriting. I scrunched it up without bothering to read it, and aimed badly for the kitchen as I threw the offending paper from me. I didn’t want to hear excuses, or blame, or anything else my betraying ex had left for me in a note. At least it wasn’t a text I observed. I didn’t feel like throwing my mobile out the window. At least not yet.
As I walked through my apartment I looked about, seeking evidence of what I knew to be true, that Sarah had left – permanently. Most of my CD’s were missing, and her clothes gone from the closet. Without bothering to get undressed, I threw myself back on the bed watching the interplay of moonlight and reflected car headlights on my bedroom ceiling. Then sleep took me, and the first day that changed my life came to an end.
I slept like the dead until 6:00 am, at which time my eyelid flew open keen to greet the day I could escape. I threw some clothes in a bag with my toothbrush, and left everything else behind not even pausing to reflect that what I was about to embark on was very far apart from my usual home based nature. I didn’t even like to drive all that match, didn’t even own a car, but this was a chance to get some perspective, catch up with old friends on the way and get a foothold on what I wanted for when I got back.
When I arrived at the dealership Theo was already out the front with an excited look on his face and the keys and a piece of paper in his hands.
“Good morning, good morning” he chanted as he rushed up to me. “The address and name are on the paper, the GPS already has the address in it and she is all fuelled up. There’s cash in the glove box for petrol, food, motels and the plane ticket home –use what you need. Take care of her, eh!” he said as I guided my hand towards the car to touch the paintwork. It took my breath away, black, sleek and completely unlike anything I would buy (despite the fact I couldn’t afford the price tag of course).
“That is one good looking car Theo” I mused, genuinely impressed.
“Good looking?! She is almost one of a kind. Cost $250,000 to buy straight out. A piece of beauty, a Michelangelo of cars – AND the brakes work on this one. I think I may love her. But….. today she is all yours until she gets to her owner. Be gentle with her and remember you have 4 days to get to Esperance”. He handed me the keys and I took them gratefully but wandered around the car to get a good look at the exterior before I climbed in to the car and closed my eyes as I sank into the seat. This felt so right after everything I had gone through in the last 24 hours.
I drove out of the dealership, and took off, turning on the radio. The song Night Drive pumped through the speakers and I cranked up the sound as I pulled from the side road on to the highway.
Matthias by Ariana Kenny / Fantasy have rating 3.2 out of 5 / Based on19 votes