By the end of the summer I didn’t see Faith anymore. That’s just Faith—she wants to play dress up, but she never wants the real shit. She wants the Disneyland version of everything. We started school last week. Sometimes, in the halls, I see her following around these Abercrombie-wearing, Dave Matthews groupie white girls and I have to think she gave up all together. I’m white too, but I ain’t that white.
I waved at her last Friday. I don’t know why. It was so corny. Faith turned on her heels and scurried away with the Crash Into Me Crew. She was wearing a fucking hemp necklace. Pussy.
It’s all good though, mostly I just chill at home. Never anyone there anyway. My mother’s useless boyfriend Richie got fired from the GE for being a dickweed, so now he spends most of his time “out looking for jobs” and hanging around the Hibernian with all the other old drunks. My mother makes up the difference with janitor shifts during the day and bartending at night, so that counts her out too. Richie’s son Dirk, we used to be kind of cool. He’d get me drunk and shit, but he started banging some 23-year-old lady with kids. They call him daddy and shit. He never comes home. The other apartments in the building are like that too. There’s some old black lady on the first floor who never leaves or has anyone over. And then upstairs is Jesus. His mom works all the time.
After school I’m on my way downstairs to let Carter in when I see Jesus, his little head bent down over the stupid toy trucks he leaves in the hallway. I open the door for Carter and when we pass Jesus on the way back up, Carter says, “Sup, little man.”
Jesus looks at me and asks, “Who’s the white boy?”
“That’s rude, Jesus. I’m a white girl.”
Jesus scrunches up his face and then an evil smile comes up on it. That kid, he can be a little shit.
“You and the white boy? You going up stairs to—," Jesus starts smashing his trucks together and moaning.
Carter laughs, covering his face with the drooping sleeve of his warm up suit. “Yo, little man, you fucked up.”
I kick Jesus’s trucks down the stairs and as he runs off after them, I say, “I ain’t a hooker like your mom.”
After Carter and I close the door to my apartment I hear the thump of Jesus’s trucks hitting the front door. Little fucker has anger problems. I turn on music videos and Carter rolls the joint. I guess he’s really the only person I hang out with anymore. He used to be Dirk’s best friend, but now that Dirk is playing Who’s the Boss with some old bitch, we don’t ever really see him.
Carter and I get real high and then I let him go down on me because he loves that shit and the whole time I’m looking over his shiny, pink head at the “California Love” video on the TV, pretending it’s Tupac’s tongue between my legs. After that we walk to Jr.’s to get chicken fingers. On the way out we pass Jesus in the hallway smashing his trucks against the wall. I come back home without Carter and it’s late for a little kid on a school night and getting cold too, but Jesus is still in the hallway. I feel bad for him sometimes.
“Where’s your mom at?” I ask.
“None of your business.”
“Well, you want to come chill with me?”
Jesus shrugs, so I pick up his trucks and start walking to my door.
He follows behind me. Now I’m a fucking babysitter. I make the kid ramen noodles and we fall asleep on the couch watching a four hour block of Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper. Sometime around 1:00 A.M. Jesus’s mom comes banging on the door.
* * *
On Friday Carter picks me up from school. I see Faith whispering to one of her friends as I get in the truck. I have Carter drive by them real slow and I roll down the window, then I take Carter’s lit cigarette from the ashtray and flick it at them. Faith’s reflection sticks in the side mirror as we drive away.
Carter drives to the end of the Commons, makes a right and then parks. This is the party we’re going to. I could have walked from school. We go inside and there are people on the kitchen floor with their faces against the refrigerator talking about how they could stay there forever. Carter wants me to join them, roll with him but I don’t fuck with pills. He wouldn’t either if his dad was a junkie. I mean I guess I don’t know that—he might—but my mom’s not real strict about anything except when it comes to pills. I figure she has her reasons to lay it out like that, so I give her that and, like I said, I don’t fuck with pills. Carter takes one though, a pill called Lucky Charms because they’re stamped with four-leaf clovers. Everything in this town has a four-leaf clover on it. I’m ok with Carter taking the E because I figure if he’s anything like those fuck-ups on the kitchen floor then he won’t want to get over. I can get stoned and space without him licking on me and slobbering his wet lips all over my face.
Carter drops the roll and we go to a back bedroom to smoke. We’re lying on the bed, blazed, staring at this fuzzy alien poster when this kid bursts in the room, “Yo! Tupac died!” It’s like Carter doesn’t even hear him. He’s just rubbing the poster and laughing. Fucking E. I try to get up and he’s hanging his drugged-out, dead-weight arm on me. I have to shove him off. I run past the kid into the den where there are like 15 kids huddled around a rabbit eared TV. There are a few girls trying to squeeze tears out and rub up on the boys for attention. The rest of the party is still going. I leave and walk up the Commons to a pay phone in front of Johnny’s Subs. It’s early, only eight o’clock. I light a cigarette and tap my fingers on the phone making bargains with God to let somebody pick up and let it be Faith. God comes through.
“It’s me.” I say.
“I know.” she says.
Then silence. Finally she says, “Are you crying?”
I wait. It seems stupid now, calling her crying over Tupac, but I tell her anyway.
“I’m sorry.” she says, but it doesn’t really seem like she is. I thought she loved Tupac as much as I did. I remembered that.
“Forget it.” I say and I hang up. Fucking poser.
I walk home in the dark, up Essex Street, past the courthouse and the junkies and the hookers. Gangs of boys slow down and blow kisses at me. I flip them off. I flip everybody off. Nobody’s pouring out a 40. Nobody cares that Tupac is gone. I climb the stairs to the second floor tripping on Jesus’s toy trucks and calling him a fucking retard the whole way up. I open the door and there Mom is sleeping in the recliner with a cigarette burning in the ashtray and a glass of vodka on the TV tray. I think about waking her and telling her about Tupac and how Faith didn’t even care, but the screen is painting her face blue and she looks used up. I turn the TV off and throw a blanket over her then take her ashtray and vodka to my room.
The next day is Saturday. I walk into the kitchen and Richie is slurping cereal off his spoon. If he was an old man and had nobody left, I would let him starve if it meant I didn’t have to hear him slurp his fucking cereal. Rich stops shoveling the food my mom pays for into his mouth long enough to tell me I look like “that homo from the Crow with all that black shit running down my face.” My mom reassures me on a regular basis that he is a better man than my father. I don’t really have the experience to compare the two, but from what I remember about my dad, he wasn’t a flaming asshole.
Mom smacks Richie in the belly. "Cut it out, she’s been crying.”
“What are you, Grace? Fucking Sherlock Holmes?”
“I wasn’t crying.”
Mom says, “Look at your face. I haven’t seen Faith around any. Is that what it is?”
No one is ever home when you want them to be or asks questions when you want them to, but they’re always there when you don’t. The whole day goes like this. Everyone is home. Even Dirk. Mom has the day off, so she makes Richie stay home from the Hibs and Dirk’s fighting with the old slut he’s banging. It’s more than any sane person can handle. I eat my breakfast and screw.
I walk up the street to High Rock tower. It’s not anything special, just some broken glass park and a pile of bricks. You can see the ocean though. Faith used to like to come here. She was weird like that, liked anywhere you could see the ocean. I sit down on an old park bench at the edge of the tower and start smoking, burning through half a pack. I hear the squeak of bike wheels and I turn around. Jesus is riding up to me on his little purple bike. The tires are sagging. It’s probably some piece of shit his mom got at a yard sale.
Jesus throws down his bike and sits next to me on the bench. His legs don’t reach the ground.
“What are you doing up here?” I ask.
“You don’t own it. I can be here. What are you doing here?”
“I couldn’t be in my house anymore.”
“Because they all suck.”
“Why do they all suck?”
“Because they do. What is this 20 questions?”
“No. I just like to play here. Sometimes me and Eduardo find cigarette butts in the rocks. He has a lighter.” Jesus points down to a mound of jagged grey rocks in the middle of the park. There’s a little boy no bigger than Jesus, but tiny from this distance, holding on to a bike. His bike is blue or green, or some shit, not purple like Jesus’s. He’s watching us with his hand shielding his eyes.
“That’s gross. Aren’t you too young to smoke?”
“I’m seven this year. Why don’t you give me one of those?” Jesus grabs at my cigarettes, but I pick them up.
Jesus calls me puta then peddles away on his bike with his wheel sagging behind him.
* * *
On Sunday morning I walk into the living room and everyone is watching the news. Mom tells me Jesus is missing, has been for hours. The last anyone saw of him, he was walking down Essex Street with his little friend and his little bike. Everyone is crying. Even Richie, which makes me think maybe he’s not as much of a dickweed as I thought he was. The worst is Jesus’s mother, screeching like a banshee all day and night. There used to be nobody and now there’s everybody. Jesus’s family comes from all over, crowding into the apartment upstairs. Every couple of hours there are loud thuds. I don’t know what they are doing, but I like to think it’s Jesus’s mother fainting. The policemen come and go. I tell them about the the cigarettes and Eduardo. The reporters come as often as the cops, hoping to scoop each other on the big fat nothing that we all know. I tell them nothing. Most of the time I wonder if I should have walked Jesus home. No one says I should have, not even the cops, but the thumping keeps going upstairs and I keep thinking it wouldn’t be if I had walked him home.
On Monday morning, I step outside of my apartment and there, in the hallway, is one of Jesus’s toy trucks. I put it in my backpack.
At school everybody talks about Jesus. Nobody talks about Tupac. I want to talk about both. To Faith. But she doesn’t. She walks into the bathroom and I am crying. Straight out crying! Like tears streaming my face in public because I don’t give a fuck anymore. She blushes and runs away. Pussy.
Her little friends all want to know though. They stop eyeing me like a gangbanging ho from the ghetto and start tapping me on the shoulder in the cafeteria, at my locker.
“That is like so sad.” they say.
“About your neighbor.” they say.
“I heard they’re draining the pond in the cemetery. Do you think they’ll find him there?” they say.
“We’re all going to Faith’s after school to watch, you should come with.” they say.
I just nod my head at them.
I go home after school and there are less people. Mom has gone back to work, Richie to his normal dickweedery and Dirk has made up with his old slut. The cops come by only once while I’m home. The thuds upstairs slow to once every few hours. I call Carter to come over, but he’s sketched about getting stoned with the cops around so I put Jesus’s truck on the coffee table and light up a smoke. I pour a glass of Mom’s vodka then turn the news on mute and wait for them to tell me if Jesus is at the bottom of a cemetery pond. I listen to “I Ain’t Mad Atcha” and I wonder if Jesus is mad at me for fucking shit up and not walking him home. If he’s up in heaven in a little white suit next to Tupac rapping that he ain’t mad at me.
There’s a knock at the door and I open it. Faith is there with her head down, shaking her leg.
“How did you get here?” I ask.
She’s standing in the doorway and I think maybe I should have said come in or even hi.
“My mom. She’s in the car.”
“What happened to the pond draining party with the Abercrombie girls?”
“My mom kicked them out when she found out why they came over.”
I laugh and Faith does a little. I want this to be the beginning of something.
“I’m sorry about your neighbor. I’m sorry he’s missing. He was a cute kid.”
I want to tell her no he wasn’t. Jesus was a pain in the ass and she isn’t supposed to be one of those people who says stupid fake shit.
“Why don’t you talk to me anymore?” I ask.
“Why’d you throw a cigarette at me?”
“Because you don’t talk to me anymore.”
“I don’t know. What you did. What you do now. How you act. It was. How can you be like that?”
“I’m not like anything.”
Faith looks me head on for once. “You are. You’re a way. You just want to be a slut.”
There is a lot of hate in her face. I never noticed it before and I wonder if maybe that’s because it was never there before. If I did it. I drag so deep on my cigarette my lungs pop and then I blow it all out in her face.
“Is that all?” I ask.
Faith storms off. I fuck things up. That’s my thing, I guess.
* * *
Within a few weeks everything goes back to normal like Jesus never existed. His mom moves out. I think to Puerto Rico or the DR or wherever it is they were from. The cops and the reporters disappear. Mom is back at her full shifts and Richie at the Hibs. Dirk moves in with the old slut. I put Jesus’s truck in a box under my bed. MTV and BET stop playing hour-long blocks of Tupac. Faith doesn’t look me in the eye or blush when she sees me anymore. I stop trying to save her. Carter comes back around and the big news is I try a roll with him and for a second it feels like the world is as right as it could ever be, like even though I’m alone in a room with Carter inside me, Jesus is still out in the hallway playing with his trucks, Faith is still mine and Tupac lived another day.
RAYNE GASPER was born and raised in Lynn, Massachusetts. She currently resides in Los Angeles where she is at work on her debut collection of stories. In 2012 she was named a PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellow.