After we'd had our fill of spinning around in Adam's truck, Adam drove me home and invited himself in. He was completely over getting mad at me in the parking lot, but I was still a little on edge. And annoyed with myself for letting it bother me.
I unlocked the door and Adam and I came inside, making our way across the gross carpet that hadn't been vacuumed in weeks, across all the crumbs and pieces of Rice-a-Roni. Richard was out, having maybe gone home for a few hours. Mom was on the couch.
"Hey, Mom," I said. "This is Adam. We’ll be in my room."
Mom sat up straighter on the sofa, smoothing down her t-shirt. At least she was wearing real clothes today. "Hi, Adam. It's always nice to meet new friends of Dillon's."
"Nice to meet you too, Mrs. Laskowski," Adam said. She didn't even correct him.
"It's not Mrs,” I told him once we were safely in my room. "Laskowski is her name."
"Oh yeah, sorry." Adam was looking at my blank walls. "Dude, I would've thought your room would be less boring."
"So you'll keep the drugs right?" Adam asked, lowering his voice. "I mean, my parents might snoop around my room. I don't know. I know they go in there when I'm not home."
"That sucks." I sat down on my bed, hoping Adam would take the cue to sit down too; he was standing right next to my garage-sale desk chair. "Do they ever find anything?"
"No," said Adam. "Well…sort of, I guess."
"I used to do this thing," Adam said, "where I would steal stuff."
My eyebrows shot up. "Like shop-lifting?"
"Sort of," he said again. He finally sat down. "It was just this thing I did. I only took stuff from actual stores a couple of times, but like, when I went to see my dad at work I'd always steal from there. Not just like, office supplies, but things off people's desks. Like people's stupid bobble-heads or paperweights. And it got so I had to do that whereever we went. I stole envelopes from the post office. And if something was free, I'd always take it, whether I wanted it or not.
"And I always took pens. Free or otherwise. At school sometimes, I'd just take people's pens. So my parents found that all my desk drawers were just stuffed with these cheap ball point pens. Most of them were from like, hotel lobbies or auto shops or something, and those were free, but I had like twenty or thirty from the same place."
Adam's tone was very matter-of-fact, but I couldn't help wondering if this was somehow a brag, if it was meant to impress me. If he wanted me to nod along. Oh wow, you stole pens. That's so weird and interesting. I thought about Adam taking all those hot sauce packets he took from Taco Bell. He'd probably wanted me to say something then.
But I swallowed my cynicism. "That's pretty fucked up," I said.
"Yeah," he said.
I was being stupid anyway; maybe I was still a little stung by the way he looked at me in the parking lot. "Maybe it's like a real condition? Like kleptomania or obsessive compulsive disorder or something?"
"Isn't that like when you can't stop washing your hands? I don't know. Maybe." Adam swiveled around in my desk chair to frown at my smudged computer monitor. “This is your computer?”
“Yeah, it’s old.”
"Can it get online?"
"Yeah," I said. "But the connection in this building is crap, so it's really slow. I told you, there's nothing to do here."
"Can I look through your CDs?"
"No!" I said, surprising myself how vehemently that came out. "I mean, I don't really have any. And they're not like, organized."
Adam blinked at me. "Okay." He twirled around in the swivel chair. "Hey, what's this?" He was holding a white envelope up above his head. I looked from Adam to my desk.
"I don't know.” I reached out so he'd hand it to me. I flipped it over to look at the front; it was addressed to me, and I recognized the hand-writing like a slap to the face. I folded it in half and shoved it in my desk drawer.
"It's just junk mail," I said. How did that even made its way to my desk? Richard. Richard must have put it there thinking he was being helpful. I realized my heart was racing. I was afraid Adam would ask to look at it again or just open the drawer himself, but he didn't.
"You have anything to eat?" Adam asked. "I'm hungry."
"I think there are some crackers and stuff in the kitchen," I said. "I'll go check okay?"
"I'll be right here."
I went into the kitchen to find a box of Ritz and some canned cheese. I noticed the neglected shopping list had slipped down to almost of the bottom of the fridge under the its weak, banana-shaped magnet. I picked it up and stuck it to our refrigerator white board. I still thought like, maybe Mom would see it and remember to go shopping. Like that was something Mom did anymore. She used to get the groceries on the way home when she took the bus back from work, so it made sense that she hadn’t done it in a while. It's hard to go to the store when you don't have any motivation to get up off the couch.
The only thing in walking distance was Walgreens and I couldn't really be expected take a bus to the supermarket when I had school/being a delinquent to worry about, right? Richard had a car. If he really did want to help, I would let him get the groceries.
Richard. I'd almost forgotten I was pissed at him. I dug around in the junk drawer for a dry-erase pen to write a note on the whiteboard. Right next to where I'd re-posted the shopping list, I wrote,
Richard - Don't go in my room.
Then that seemed sort of bratty, so I erased part of it with my sleeve it and wrote Please don't go in my room instead. Yeah, that was better. I grabbed the crackers and cheese can off the counter and headed back for my room.
I bumped into Adam in the doorway.
"Sorry, man," he said. He cast his eyes down to the carpet, scratched the back of his neck. "My mom just called. I have to get home."
"Oh," I said, "okay." I felt goofy standing there with my hands full of snacks. I stepped out of his way.
"So…thanks for having me over and stuff.” Adam was making a grab at manners. It didn't suit him.
"Yeah," I said, "Thanks." He waved at me and I couldn't return the gesture, could only sort of shrug with the crackers and cheese-can still in my hands.
"Oh also"—he looked up—"we lost. The homecoming game."
He left with a smirk. We were vindicated.
After Adam left, I sat down at my desk chair and stared down at the closed top drawer. I didn't want to think about the letter, but it was there in my desk now. It wasn't going anywhere. What I really should have done was tear it up and throw it in the trash. Chuck it out the window. Light it on fire. Because I really didn't want to read it. I didn't.
Except that I kind of did.
It was from Ken. Did I mention that? I could tell by the envelop; I'd recognize his stupid handwriting anywhere, and who else could spell my last name correctly? I kind of hated that after all the calling, he thought he could just send me a letter and expect me to read it. And I really hated that I was considering it. I had to justify it to myself: Ken wouldn't know if I read it or not, right?
Before I could change my mind, I opened the drawer, grabbed the letter, and went to tear it open.
And it was already open. I don't know how I missed it before; maybe because it was opened so neatly and after I saw the handwriting I was too busy pretending not to give a fuck.
I ran out into the living room.
"Mom, Richard's reading my mail!"
She looked up from the television like she was surprised to see me there. "What do you mean?"
"He's reading my mail! He went into my room and he left some mail on my desk." I flailed my arms. "And he opened it!"
Mom looked thoughtful for a second. "He opened it?"
"He does that with my mail too, honey," she said. "He's not reading it; he just opened it for you. He does that with mine too, so I don't have to find a letter opener."
"But that's so stupid!” I yelled. It was! Who did that?! "And all you ever get is bills and stuff!"
"What did you get?" Mom asked. I just shook my head and went back into my room, letting my door slam behind me. I didn't care if Mom thought I was being dramatic.
But as stupid as Mom's excuse for Richard sounded, I realized I did believe it. He'd been trying way too hard to be helpful lately, maybe to make up for all the times he was useless before, wanting Mom to peel his oranges and make him sandwiches. The Dick was trying to give back, and this included the misguided act of opening our mail for us. It made sense. I still seethed though. And rationalized that if Richard had in fact read my mail, I should read it too, so I'd know what he had on me.
I pulled out the letter. It was written on a plain piece of white paper.
Just my name. Nothing cordial or friendly about. My name and a dash.
I know you're avoiding me. I know you're ignoring my calls. I don't even know if you're going to read this.
I'm not sure if you expect me to apologize—should I? From all I can tell, you're still mad at me for leaving. I tried to tell you several times that that decision had nothing to do with you, and while I understand why you were upset, I wish we could put that behind us. Please accept the enclosed as a peace-offering. I really need to talk to you.
The enclosed? I stopped reading and reached into the envelope, confused. My fingers found something and I pulled it out. I stared down in disbelief.
I was holding a twenty dollar bill.
What the fuck? I could barely even process that. Couldn't decide if I was more offended or more confused. Why the fuck would Ken be sending me money? And twenty fucking dollars? Was this some kind of sick joke? A jab at how broke I was?
I was so pissed I felt dizzy. I stumbled over to my bed. Ken was such an asshole. I crumpled the letter up and flung it back in the trash can, which was really where it should have gone in the first place. Then I flopped back on my bed and thought about how nice it would be if Ken maybe just vanished off the face of the earth. Not died, necessarily. Just, wasn't there anymore. Ceased to exist.
And while I was thinking about it, maybe it would be nice if the soccer team vanished too.
Then I thought, at least I don't have school tomorrow. I had other things to look forward to.
Up next Thursday, Chapter 22: Grins.