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Junk Wake & Sunset

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One of Liz's housemates was finishing up his graduate school thesis film. The other one, Cary, who was already working, had a graduate degree in film, too. I envied them their belief. They were all trying to work their way to the front of the concert, so they could throw their creative panties on stage, between numbers.

Liz had become entangled with Cary, who I'd never met before. I didn't know what I thought of him yet. He was in his latest twenties, did camera work, but had already begun to guess he wouldn't get to pick his work. I was in my earliest twenties, but I already felt that way, myself. He was the one who'd given Liz the dog, a black and white wolf- looking thing of spastic energy. Cary had only been back from New York a couple of days. A friend he'd known a long time had died, and he had flown out for the funeral.

Cary said it was okay for me to smoke outside, and as we sat on white metal patio chairs, safely and firmly in Los Angeles, I took the celebratory final puffs on my tiny roach. A sheet of gauze fluttered across the end of the day, and a strange, almost reasonable, quiet suddenly became available.

Cary stared hard out past the pool, but I didn't want him to drift too far away.

'How'd he die?' I asked, as gently as I could.

"He overdosed," he said, looking over at me.


Cary looked down at the white-painted patio table between us and then back out over the pool. "I knew him for a long time, but he always seemed pretty careful with it. He thought of it as something that he indulged in. I mean, he came from a family that gave him money, so he could do it that way, he was doing it for a long time, I mean like nine years, without losing control. I'd pretty much quit worrying about his habit years ago. I tried to talk to him about it a few times, but that's just the way he wanted it."

I looked at Cary's silver watch band pressing little hairs down against his arm. I thought, I don't want to go like that, but who shapes anything, anyway.

Cary went on, with a trace of helpless irritation, "He could have had people, nice people, bring it by, but he wasn't into that. The thing that killed him is that he used to just go down to the street and get it, he didn't care, get it from someone he didn't know. He was too trusting; he never wanted to believe people were going to hurt him."

The pool rippled a faded sunset towards us, lapping against pale blue tile at the edge.

"He had a really strange, isolated relationship with his father. He always hoped that his father would change his mind about him, but obviously with his lifestyle, that wasn't ever going to happen. I mean he comes from like east coast, New England banking family, very square, very proper."

I looked over at his eyes, listening.

"Actually I've been having a lot of weird guilt feelings about the whole thing, because when I went out there, I found out he left me a lot of money."

Cary told me how much it was, I don't remember. Several thousands, or more. I passed a small test, that I felt no envy when he told me. I knew that his friend had left him something else too, an emptiness or awareness that could not be spent or given away.

'You feel guilty because you don't want to be glad about something that happened because your friend died? He wouldn't have left that money for you unless he thought it would help make you happy,' I said, thinking even as I said it maybe I knew better than that.

...what just happened again?...
...section five...
story index - v