TRUST FUND LIVING
It’s time to perform my pretend wake up. I stretch, yawn, and look at my savior with my one good eye. Actually notice that my other eye is opening up a bit. Steve notices, too.
“Hey! Your eye is getting better. It’s open. Can you see through it?”
I squeeze my good eye shut. “Got your marshmallow jacket dry-cleaned, I see.”
“That’s a relief. You can still see through that eye. ‘Marshmallow jacket’ . . . that’s funny.” Steve grins. “I didn’t get the jacket cleaned though. I had no more use for it, so I just threw it out and bought a new one. Here!” He tosses me a Subway sandwich. “You been sleeping for so long, I figured you’d be too weak to go to the Spaghetti Factory, so I brought you something to eat.”
“Thanks. “ I take the sandwich and peel back the wrapper. I am aware of something nagging at me, but I’m not sure what. Don’t want to go to the Spaghetti Factory—Steve’s right about that—but that’s not what’s gnawing my insides. I give Steve’s new jacket the once-over and slide my butt to the edge of the couch. There I pause, shrug, and look around. “This is a pretty fancy place for a student. Two-bedroom, two-bath condo. Thirteen hundred square feet. Three blocks from English Bay. Worth a mint.”
“You sound like a real estate agent.” Steve grins.
“I used to be.” Damn. Me and my big mouth. I’m not in the mood to give Steve information today. His new jacket . . . that’s what’s bothering me, but I don’t know why.
“Did you sell West End property?”
“Yeah, yeah. West End, high end. Whatever. Like I said, this is an expensive condo. How does a grad student afford it?”
Steve shrugs. “My parents made a lot of money in the last few years. They set up a trust fund for me. No big deal. Never want for anything. They give me lots of stuff.”
My jaw tightens. I drop my sandwich onto the coffee table and jump to my feet, fists raised, heart pounding. “Yeah. Easy as hell when they give you whatever you want and promise they’ll always be there. Then they leave. No warning. You turn around and they’re gone. Just like that. No family. No home. Not a fucking penny to your name.”
Steve recoils. “Whoa . . . take it easy, Justin.” He extends both arms, palms out, preparing to ward off an attack. “Not my fault, bud. Don’t take it out on me.” His voice ripples.
Jesus! Was worried about him hurting me, and now I’m scaring the hell out of him. My rage disappears as quickly as it showed up. I drop to the couch and lower my head. “Sorry.”
When Steve speaks again, his voice is calm, monotone. “Do you want to talk about it, Justin?”
I stare at the carpet.
“Okay then.” Steve moves closer and plops into the chair across from me.
My heart still hammers. I take deep, slow breaths. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Steve’s foot tapping, padding noiselessly on the carpet. He’s going to ask something else, I just know it. Tread lightly, bud.
“What about real estate?” Steve’s voice still wavers slightly. “Sure picked a heck of a time to get into that, didn’t you?”
“Yeah, well . . . ” Damn. Don’t want to talk about this either. Leave me alone, bud.
“Guess you didn’t see the warning signs. When did you start selling real estate anyway?”
“Not now, Steve.” I get up, turn away. “Maybe we’ll go to the Spaghetti Factory tomorrow. Tired. Sore. Need more sleep.”
“Ah, come on, bud. It’ll help if you talk about it. At least, sit here and finish your sandwich. You won’t regain your strength if you don’t eat.”
I look back, staring first at him and then at the abandoned sandwich. He’s right. If I want my life back, if I am to have any chance with Sarah and Bobby, I need to get healthy. I go to the couch, sit, and pick up the sandwich. Without a word, I nibble, bit by bit, mouse-sized bites, until there is nothing left. I stand and walk away.
“One more thing, bud.”
“No offense, but if you are going to stay here, you’ve got to hit the shower. You’re pretty ripe. I left towels and clean clothes in your bathroom.”
I nod and continue walking.
Soon I’m in the shower, reveling in the hot water that prickles my scalp and rains down my shoulders. A simple thing—a shower. Yet a luxury. No such luxury during the months that I lived in the street. Now, as I stand there, tears surge, and I swallow the urge to cry. There is no pain here, only gratitude. A shower—something that I took for granted my whole life—is a privilege. The water pounds me, massages my beaten body. I reach for the shampoo and squeeze a glob into my hand. As I knead it into my scalp, my tears do flow. They mix with the droplets from the shower and siphon away. I don’t realize that I am sobbing until I hear Steve banging on the door.
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