“The man at the tire store wore a yellow shirt to church last Sunday!”
Stuart found himself sitting at the end of his Aunt Sonya’s bed with nothing to say.
His mother’s aunt had developed cancer and the whole family was taking turns visiting with her in the hospital as she recovered from her surgery.
He hated being here alone with her and usually managed to rope someone into going with him, but today he was flying solo.
“That’s great!” he tried to feign enthusiasm.
Stuart wasn’t very good with old people.
In the background, Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer” was playing from a radio in someone else’s room.
It was summer and it was hot as shit. He should be out at the lake, jet skiing with Dave and Bonesy right now. He looked over at this frail old woman smiling back at him and felt sorry for himself. Things couldn’t get much worse.
He remembered his sister’s advice on how best to cope with these visits: Aunt Sonya was old; she just wanted to listen to a familiar voice. Just find something to talk about and blab on and on about it without even thinking.
But what the hell did he have to talk about with this 80 year old woman?
I can see you-
Your brown skin shining in the sun
You got that hair slicked back
And those Wayfarers on, baby
“Wayfarer’s?” he thought. “Oh shit, those stupid sunglasses Stevie used to wear!”
He had something to talk about. He launched into his story.
“Hey Aunt Sonya, remember Alan’s friend, Stevie? His dad worked for that sunglasses company and he had those stupid aviator sunglasses? Remember those?
I remember when I was a kid, everyone thought those were the coolest. I think that was the last time anybody wore those without being ironic about it.
That kid was such a tool. He would walk around in those like he was Tom Cruise or something and they looked so ridiculous on him. They were way too big, like those clown sunglasses they wear at the circus or something.
Anyway, I remember that kid and my brother were like best friends for the longest time. Personally, I could never stand him, but I guess he was the only kid in the neighborhood who was close to Alan’s age.
They used to play Nintendo together all the time. They would sit there for hours in front of the TV until they finished a game. Then they’d get a new one and start all over.
That’s why they stopped being friends, you know. When I was ten, we went to Disneyworld for spring vacation and Stevie convinced my brother to lend him like ten games, because he wasn’t gonna be around to play them anyway.
So we get back and Alan asks for his games back and Stevie gives him his three suckiest games. Alan’s like, “what the hell? Where are the rest of my games?” and Stevie tries to tell him that he only lent him three.
I remember the look on that little bastard’s face. So smug and arrogant. Alan gets Mom and she asks Stevie where the rest of the games were. He stands there and lies right to her face. Swears to her that Alan only lent him three games.
So Mom piles everyone in the Taurus and we drive over to Stevie’s house and she explains the situation to his mom but of course she takes Stevie’s side. He was the perfect little angel and if he gave her his word that he didn’t steal any games, that was good enough for her.
Not only does she refuse to go look around in his room, but actually starts to lose her temper and basically kicks us out of her house.
I remember we’re driving home and Mom is about to lose it. Swearing and calling Stevie a little brat. Then she goes off on his mother and what a lying bitch she is and no wonder her kid turned out to be a rotten little shit too.
She tells Alan that tomorrow she’s going to Toys ‘R’ Us and she’s going to buy him all new games and he’s not allowed to hang out with Stevie anymore, which I really don’t think is a big problem, because believe me, he’s pissed too.
And that was it. They never spoke again. We were pretty tight with their family for a while too. Not best friends but they’d always come to our Christmas parties and shit like that, but all that stopped.
So, fast forward ten years and Alan and Stevie are in high school. Stevie’s a year ahead of Alan and he’s in band or something. Alan’s got baseball practice so they’re both there after school. It’s pretty late and Alan goes back to the locker room to grab his books and he hears this awful noise.
He looks down the hall towards the pool and there’s like 4 or 5 seniors from the wrestling team and they’re taking turns raping Stevie. Like full-on sodomy, I guess. Stevie’s screaming for help but there’s no one around cuz it’s so late.
Alan grabs his books and sneaks out without anyone seeing him. Mom is there to pick him up and he gets in the car and she drives him home. He doesn’t say a word to anyone.
Doesn’t get a teacher, doesn’t tell Mom what he saw, doesn’t call the cops, or anything. He’s still pissed about the video games.
So later that night, he tells me all this and we kinda realize how serious this is. I mean, we knew this kid was gonna be fucked up for life and even though he didn’t do anything wrong, people are gonna blame Alan for not helping Stevie. Right there, we make an oath that we’re not going to tell anyone, ever. And I kept that oath until this very moment.
I mean, in his defense, in high school, that kind of thing is a no-no. Nobody wants to be a snitch. Alan always saw it as karma, I guess.
Then one day, he called me up from college. It was right before I moved to Chicago. I answer and he’s like, “Do you know what today is?” And I’ve got no clue.
He tells me today is the seven year anniversary of Stevie getting raped and now the statute of limitations is up so he can’t be charged for anything. I guess that makes it OK to talk about now, but I still didn’t ever bring it up with anyone. ”
Stuart paused and looked up, fully realizing what he had just been saying to his 80 year old great-aunt.
She looked stunned, she didn’t move. For a second, he thought she might be dead: killed by the shocking events of his story.
He breathed a sigh of relief as he saw her draw a breath before speaking.
“I never liked that little son of a bitch.”
She smiled. Stuart smiled back.
He had been wrong about Aunt Sonya. He thought she was a worthless, old lady, but she was actually pretty cool.
He looked up at the clock and felt something he had never felt before: he was sorry visiting hours were over.
“Well, I should get going,” he said, reluctantly, “but I’ll be back tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow’s your cousin Katie’s turn to visit me, you don’t have to stop by,” she said sadly.
“I know I don’t have to,” he said, “I want to.”
Again, they shared a smile.
True to his word, Stuart was there at the hospital right as visiting hours began the next day. He took the stairs two at a time because he didn’t want to wait for the elevators. He bounded into her room with a bouquet of flowers for Aunt Sonya but his smile vanished when he saw the nurse placing the white sheet over his dead relative’s face.
The nurse turned to him, “I’m sorry, she just passed,” she said.
Stuart’s knees went weak. He quickly sat down in the chair by the door. As she walked by, the nurse touched his shoulder and left him to grieve.
He couldn’t believe it. His Aunt Sonya was gone. He had cancelled his plans with Dave and Bonesy and now it had all been for nothing.