Wet Hair – In Vogue Spirit (De Stijl)
by Scott Creney
A song is playing on the radio.
You and I are driving to the hospital. A late night phone call from a cousin you hadn’t heard from in ages told you that your uncle had just been admitted to the emergency room. It doesn’t look good; he probably isn’t going to make it. Her voice, choked and sobbing, said you probably still have time to make it — if you want to say goodbye.
It’s a four-hour drive from Chicago to Iowa City. You’ve never had the guts to bring me home before, to introduce me to your family. They wouldn’t understand. You don’t know what it’s like. Four hours gives you more than enough time to lay down the ground rules, to make sure that we are — as you incongruously put it — both on the same page. You tell me that there will be no hand-holding, that I will be introduced as your roommate. That I just came down to help with the driving, to keep you from falling asleep. Once there you will make a joke, at an appropriate time, about how hard it was finding a hotel room that had two double beds.
It’s nearly morning by the time we reach Mercy Hospital. The early sun shines weakly through the parking lot trees, casting bony-fingered shadows off their January branches.
During the drive you told me how little your uncle had meant to you. That he only communicated in silence and sarcasm. He was the youngest of the family, and whatever petty sibling resentment he harbored towards your mother had somehow gotten passed on to you. Still, seeing your cousin’s face like this, all broken and wet, reaching for something that no one can give her, is unbearable. She babysat you when you were a child. She took you to your first rock concert while you were still in middle school.
Standing there in the emergency room entrance, with half your family watching, you crumble into me as you dissolve into tears. In your frantic grasping, your mouth inevitably finds my neck, and as you kiss me softly we rock back and forth, none of us caring — not even your family. Especially not your goddamned family.
Three weeks later, we’re watching Wet Hair at the Empty Bottle. They play this song at the end of the show. And during one of the spacier parts, the room seems to hover for a second, like you can reach out and touch the music. Our heartbeats are fluttering erractically. You put your hand between my shoulder blades and rub softly in a circle, lean in closely and whisper for the first time that you love me.