14 Nicky’s Kicks and Nicks

       Ethan turns onto his back in his full size futon and opens his eyes. Shit, he thinks to himself as the ceiling comes into focus, I made it home. He sighs loudly. His mouth is dry. He is still in his clothes. He didn’t convert his couch to a bed, but at least managed to take his shoes off. He looks around his studio apartment, relieved to be alone. “My pack,” the image of his backpack flashes across his synapse. He thinks backwards on last evening’s events from removing his shoes, to entering his apartment, to walking down Bush, and a Tenderloin citizen-bum vomiting on himself at his doorsteps. He writhes again remembering the smell. How the fuck did he manage to do that right in front of me? What are the odds? He remembers pulling the straps on his backpack tight to his body. Ethan sighs again; he remembers sitting the pack next to his door and shuffling to the bed. He remembers sitting down, removing each shoe, and checking them for vomit, He visualizes his socks, and then laying back, and sleep.

       “It’s here,” he says to himself. The memory of his blue backpack leads to other memories. He remembers sitting at the BART station in the east bay and vomiting profusely in a plastic bag. An aged lady gave it to him. He smiles at the simple kindness of a stranger. He remembers the BART police; how professional and concerned they were about his health. He brushes his hand along the front of his coat, and yes, the pearl hatpin is in its usual position. I couldn’t have stuck it in someone. I am not that kind of person. He remembers the expression on the dude’s face and his cry of pain. It must have been a bad dream.

       The face of his favorite Aunt Nicole, or Nicky, forms in his head. He remembers the journal she kept until her last days. He has several books that she left specifically to him. She died in hospice care for ovarian cancer. She never had children and often said that her ovaries were having their revenge. Auntie Nicky always joked about it, and although the doctors removed them when they discovered the cancer, it was too late.

       “The ghosts of my unborn children will have their mother, one way or another.” She use to say.

       Ethan takes a deep breath and smiles to himself. Ethan has not read all the journals, but remembers the last one he had out. He picks it up from under the futon; it was lying open, face down. He reads out loud to himself, “Nicky’s Kicks and Nicks, 13 November 2005, Friday.”

       Ethan remembers arriving back in the city and speaking with a young, blonde woman on the train. She lost her phone. The muscles in his arms spasm, and then his legs; as if a random current of electricity is flowing through his body. It passes quickly, and he shudders as a cold chill comes over him. When he exhales, he can see his breath. I must have a window open, he thinks to himself, “my backpack.” Ethan rises up from his BED and looks toward the door of his apartment. It is sitting where he thought.

       He feels for his phone in his coat pocket. It vibrates. Ethan lies back down and pulls the phone out. It is Joel. He is calling; not texting? What does he want?

       “Hello, Joe” Ethan answers.

       “Dude, are you okay?” Joel conveyed true concern. “We had a great time last night and Bridget still wants to hang out with you.”

       “Really?” Ethan taunts; he is incredulous.

       “Yes, of course.” Joel banters. “I think she’s wet for you. She gave me a tarot card to give you.”

       “Why?”

       “Dude, you’re suppose to give it back and she’ll tell your fortune with it.” Joel retorts.

       “You mean you didn’t 8-leg by 4-arms?” Ethan hiccups.

       “Are you still sick, man? She has friends coming into town and invited us to a backyard barbecue in Berkeley.” Joel explains.

       “Huh?” Ethan is still unconvinced.

       “Well, are you going to make me lead you to water? Do you want to go?” Joel jests.

       “I don’t know. I had a really bad night. I got frisked by the BART cops and I puked a lot. I just don’t know.” Ethan moans.

       “Come on looser, you will really like her. She’s fun.” Joel emphasizes

       “I’ve heard that before. What about Steve-o?” Ethan asks.

       “No. He and Susan are going out by themselves.” Joel adds, “I think they really hit it off last night.”

       “Susan, Suzy?” Ethan remembers the BART ride home.

       “Yes. She works with Heather; and no, not Suzy?” Joel corrects him. “We’re not in fifth grade Bro.”

       “Let me eat something and I’ll call you back. What time?” Ethan asks.

       “The party starts at three, but we’re going at five.” Joel explains. “Heather has laundry and some other chores before.”

       “Chores? Does Heather live on a farm?” Ethan finally gets a laugh.

       “Ha, ha, dude. You know what I mean. I’ll pick you up at 4:30.”

       “You have a car, now?” Ethan rolls his eyes.

       “No, idiot, Brigit has a cool, 68 Buick, but I’m driving.” Joel answers, “If you don’t feel like drinking you can be the designate.”

       “Hum?”

       “She says it has a really big back seat?” Joel divulges.

       “I’ll call you back in a couple of hours.” Ethan sighs.

       “You better. You’ve got tomorrow off anyway, so bring your bag. You can stay at my place or?” Joel winks at the phone.

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