Journey for Answers – Chapter 4 “Old Friends”

The wind blew slightly calmer on street level than on the fifth floor, Matthew opened vans doors and heard cousin Gary whistling in his direction. They both shared an eye contacted and Matthew saluted him, as he did the same. Doors opened like angelic wings and with the slight jump, he got into the van, a slight touch on a dashboard to grab for aux cord which laid there completely forgotten. Phone plugged to vans stereo, beginning to fill it with calm ambient sounds of raw hip-hop beats. With keys in the ignition and gently turning them, the van began revving like an old bastard after inhaling of a cigarette. The noise of old diesel engine filled all neighborhood and black smoke raised up from the exhaust as pedal been pushed slightly closer to bottom. Sound, black smoke, and rust stains were the signs about vans potential slowly fading away – it was now or never, the measures had to be taken.

One hand on the wheel and with other holding a phone, trying to recall back to Edgar, he began slowly driving forward. The phone rang, but no sound beside endless beeping occurred and a hundred thoughts started circling around Matthew’s mind – ‘perhaps, he’s just under another car or sitting on the toilet, I really hope he’s not annoyed with my unpunctuality’. Sun was setting down slowly, taking away the last bright of daylight with it. Last light fading away, leaving few hours of daylight – the last warm and light of the evening. Awaited ring from Edgar didn’t occur during the whole hour drive to his place.

Huge shadow was dropping in front of Edgar’s garage from the barn. Evenings usually got colder because of huge shadow covering half of Edgar’s yard, while mornings remained opposite with enough hotness to start praying for shadow. In the far distance stood Edgar and by the look of his body movement seemed like he had a few shots already – looked like he was slightly tipsy already. Clueless Edgar caught no motion occurring in the yard, despite Matthew’s loud van driving inside his yard. Edgar stood at the porch with Ruth, both smoking self-rolled cigarettes and laughing in a distance. Van stopped and Matthew stepped outside to greet both dogs, Barry and Brenda, who were still there from his childhood. ‘Feels scary how fast time passed through these years, without catching a stop’ Matthew thought while looked at two grown-up savages. They were mean to everyone; barking on everyone who was passing by them, but not to Matthew, he was their dearest friend who always sneaked for them food under the table.

Ruth with a cigarette in her left hand stood right beside her father, with a smile on her face she began waving in Matthew’s direction. Her father was drunk enough to ignore the fact that someone just drove inside his yard. Matthew being busy with petting dogs, turned his head slightly to see Edgars back pointing in his direction. Both of them stood on the porch; Ruth was smiling in Matthew direction but didn’t acknowledge Edgar to look his direction. She did not like to disturb her father process, no matter what he was doing. Matthew quit petting dogs and started walking in their direction. Shadow began covering Matthew’s face, a slightly chilled feeling caught his face – finally, it was something different besides the sun. Coming closer to the porch and quickly started adoring Ruth. How much she changed from last year, with few things remaining the same. Same freckles were covering her cheeks and middle part of the nose, she still wore that funny t-shirt with a unicorn on it, with dirty overalls covering lover part of her body. She gave out kind smile and look of faithful farmers daughter. Arriving closer to the porch, just when Edgar had to go in for another shot of booze and again completely ignoring Matthew’s presence.

Is he really that drunk already?” He smiled lightly.

“You finally arrived,” Ruth inhaled another smoke from the cigarette and continued “It seems like, he couldn’t wait for you and started right away. Swear to god, he was so excited when heard you were coming. How’s life going, Maaaatty?” she laughed lightly while making fun of the name ‘Matty’ and small smile afterward.

“You know I don’t like when people call me like that,” they hugged and he continued “I can say there were better times in my life, but now its okay so to speak. How are you? Seems like Edgar doing pretty well for himself, if considered. That pile of old rusted car parts stored there is from clients I’m guessing.”

“We’re holding on as we can after mom died in that terrible accident – he hasn’t been same since. Every day there’s another bottle in the evening and a new regret of drinking on the next morning. Junk you spoke about is from neighbors cars, they come here and we fix them up for a small fee, helps to keep lights going in the house.”

“You fix cars? That is some unexpected turn off events.”

“What? A girl like me can’t get her hands dirty, please Matty,” they both smiled and Matthew continued

“I thought you went to acting school, you always talked about becoming one”

“Times change and the thing with the accid.-“

“Matty! Come here you little.”

Edgar came out of nowhere, smelling of booze and crappy tobacco; started hugging Matthew, while Ruth stepped back, extinguishing her cigarette beginning to laugh at this circus.

“What took you so long, I started to wonder you quit on me. Ahhh, it’s really good to see you. Come, we must take some shots, I think we won’t be looking at your car today.”

“Edgar, where do you expect me to sleep then?”

“Let’s not worry about that, there are plenty of room and mattresses lying around in the barn. Come inside.” Matthew stood for a second thinking ‘Okey, what the hell, it’s just one bottle with an old friend of mine’ and stepped in the house.

“I’ll lock the gates to the yard, I’m guessing no one will be riding out tonight.”

“Smart” Edgar’s voice echoed from the far distance in the house.

House was filled with the smell of burned wood from stove and smell of booze circled around the air. Old-timer stove was filled with logs in it and metal plating sat on top, with plenty of separated metal circles in the middle – remove one and more heat comes up – a practical way of cooking without any utilities required besides wood. Few paintings hanged on the wall to color out drown-grey environment they were living. House felt like a simple corridor, leading all the way through to the kitchen and from there to other rooms, ending with the huge bedroom – the Edgars room. Matthew coming to the realization and quickly discovering that there wasn’t as much space as Edgar described. Edgar seemed already drunk enough to start experiencing small memory loss,  that being a minor downside with his drinking. Stir-fry stood on stove barely touched, either it was bad or no one was interested in it. Matthew stopped in the kitchen to sit down by the table, thinking table in the middle of the house could be the place were Edgar usually drank.

“Here Matty, the kitchen is for food and food only, come here football game is on.”

Edgar enjoyed watching sport while drinking, it gave him reason to get wasted other than loss of his beloved one. Matthew got to the Edgars bedroom swiftly discovering two shot glasses filling up and telling himself ‘oh boy, this is gonna be interesting’.

“Another one, he deserves to catch up with you dad,” Ruth was shouting from the kitchen coming to her fathers’ bedroom.

“Ruth, you’re doing this on purpose, aren’t you?” they both stared at each other for a second and he continued “I quit drinking a few months ago, from then it’s just a few beers and wine glass at weekends.”

“What’s the matter, little Matty can’t take strong stuff.” They haven’t met each other in a while and she had to throw out some jokes, “Don’t worry. I never make some drink stuff they don’t want, especially in my house. I have no desire of you throwing up on my beautiful carpet which covers whole way here.”

“Okay, enough with chit-chat kids, you know the game, Matty?” Edgar said.

“What kinda game?”

“You’re gonna like it” Ruth squeezed few words between their conversation

“Game goes like this, there is an easy version and hard version. We’ll start with an easy one. If you’ll feel like you need step it up a notch, then we’ll move to harder one – call it round two,” they both laughed softly and he continued “So. For every goal they score, no matter which team – we drink. Simple, yet challenging after few goals.” Matthew swallowed a tiny chunk of saliva and sat with no word about it, awaited what will happen.

“GOAL!”

Edgar shouted for all them to hear; shouted loud enough to make outside dog ears lift up slightly. All three of them raised shot glasses to their lips and swallowed without a second thought, except Matthew – who made disgusted face expression from the terrible taste of booze.

“Damn Matty, I almost didn’t believe when you said about you quitting drinking, but I sure do now. What can I say, good luck? I hope you know what you’ve signed up for.”

Ruth smiled and winked at him. Bottle stood next to Edgar as he poured shots for all three of them. The game went on with the next goal coming up after few minutes. Another shot for everyone and Matthew’s face gain zero emotions after this glass; another pour from Edgar set all three of them waiting patiently for next goal. While the game was going on, conversations about cars, women, and booze started filling the room. Edgar liked to talk a lot about those topics when he was drunk, there was no way of shutting him up, except for sleep. Matthew and Ruth started to feel bored, as these topics weren’t so appealing to their minds; they both were artists and speaking about practical stuff bored them. Matthew began telling about his plan for traveling to South of Europe, when suddenly Edgar pushed him off the story with his talk about the booze – an idea of making his own at home, from apples which grew in the backyard. Edgar’s story left Matthew staring at him, like admiring an interesting object, he sat and looked at his face, to hide discontent that began rising in Matthew. The story was about reached point of how wine gets distilled to booze, following up with…

“Goal!” Ruth shouted, just for a conversation to end and shot glasses to become empty once again, except there was no goal. Edgar was drunk enough to don’t see the numbers quite good. She knew that story and heard it a hundred times, it was time to catch some fresh air with a cigarette.

“I’m going for a cigarette, paps you coming?”

With head heavily resting on his shoulder and eyes pointing to the ground, with heavy exhale of breath, which smelled like he used booze instead of mouthwash he told her.

“Oh no cherry pie, I think I’m going to bed. See you in the morning.”

“Matthew, you coming? I’m guessing you don’t want to babysit my father.”

“Oh no, that doesn’t seem entertaining at all.”

With last strength, Edgar got up from the chair and dived into bed, with face hitting pillow straight. Both of them went outside, inhaling fresh chilly air and reviving their senses, feeling grateful for coming out of booze infested room, where now laid Edgar. Ruth sat down on the bench which was right next to house entrance, with an idea for rolling up a cigarette she asked

“Your rolling one? Or you quit that habit also?”

“Yeah, decided to go for grass only from now on.” Matthew couldn’t hold a thought about what Edgar said “And cherry pie, really? I have to give him a credit about that.” He made a small laugh.

“What can I say, perks of having a red hair. He does that every time when he get’s drunk like he’s now. My mother usually got the honor to be called like that, guess when he gets drunk that hard, he can’t spot a difference anymore.” with slight sorrow covering her face, she continued rolling her cigarette.

“It was funny at the beginning, but now you’ve just made it sound sad. The idea of sticking to that nickname occurred to me, but now, now I have no desire speaking about it anymore.”

“If you’d ever called me like that, I would probably tell everyone about that time you fell with the face in cows shit.”

Her face turned from little sorrow over her face to huge smile all over it, she started laughing, with small pauses to regain her breath and continuing

“How you ran in our direction with shit covering your whole face and two blinking eyes remaining, looking at us with innocence. How our fathers laughed at that sight – priceless. Ahh, good old times. How is your old man by the way?”

That is a question on which I don’t know the clear answer”

“As you say.” she felt like this isn’t the right moment to ask him questions like that, as she continued the conversation

“Hey, you look like someone who caries weed around and I didn’t know how to ask you this, so I’ll just spill out for you. Do you have any on you?”

“Yeah, it’s I the van. Should we go there? For a spring it’s freezing a little bit.”

“Matty, it was the whole idea of me asking if you have any.”

At this point, he didn’t understand, was it signal for sex or she was just playing him. Two childhood friends, who seen each other naked at the early age and never kept a secret from each other. He considered her a close family friend and thought of having sex with her didn’t occur to him. Matthews mind was firing up with scenarios how this will end up, women of his childhood were moving in front of him, leading him to his van. She held a cigarette in one hand while other remained calm, flowing with the wind direction. The wind howled loudly on this night, giving Matthew a feeling of unsafely and uncertainty. Ruth overlooked her right shoulder with a smile, extended her arm to grab Matthew’s hand and gave a little wink with her right eye.


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