Isaac and I stop our strolling to look in the windows of the pet store. The dogs look longingly at us- too miserable to even wag their tails. Why they keep pet stores in the middle of the mall I will never understand. We slurp our smoothies and continue walking.
“So what are we gonna get Jess?” Ike asks casually. Her birthday is July 31st- one week from now. We have no ideas.
“How about a cd?”
“Blah.” Isaac rejects the idea and tosses his plastic cup into the closest garbage.
“That’s kind of impersonal. Do you really think she would like that?” He looks up and down the fake models standing in the Abercrombie windows and I swear I have the only brother in the world who would check out a manican.
“No? But she wouldn’t hate it?”
“Zac! You are a terrible gift giver!” He shakes his head in exasperation.
“I know! I am fully aware of that!”
He laughs and looks at me, “Remember the time you gave Ellie that book about how to stay organized for Christmas?”
“Well, she was disorganized. Really messy, you remember.”
“So!” He laughs, “Mackie’s a little chubby but I’m not going to get him a book how about to lose weight FOR CHRISTMAS. What did she say when she opened it?”
I shrug. “I don’t remember.” Of course I remember. Even though I gave Ellie probably the worst gift in the entire world for Christmas that year I remember she wrapped her arms around me, hugged me, and thanked me. She said I was the best friend a girl could ask for.
Suddenly our mood has dropped with the mention of Ellie. We walk in silence as I finish up my smoothie until Isaac finally speaks up. “Doesn’t she like this make up store? Mac?”
“Yeah, but mom hates that stuff.”
“Mom only hates it because it’s so expensive. Let’s get her a gift certificate to there. She’ll like that.”
I try to figure out how a gift certificate is less impersonal than a dvd but shrug anyway. “Sure, why not?”
We walk into the store and look around. “How can there possibly be this many shades of eye shadow?” I ask Isaac, nodding at the shelves of eye shadow. I pick up a bright yellow one. “And who would wear this?”
He doesn’t answer me. He’s busy watching a little girl using one of the sample blushes. She dips the big store brush into the blush and holds it over her fathers face. He is crouched down next to her. “It’s time to make you beautiful daddy!” She giggles and rubs the brush against his cheeks.
He laughs and gives us an “It’s part of being a Dad!” look. I cannot help but laugh with them. Isaac on the other hand angrily looks away and walks over to the counter.
“C’mon Zac. Lets buy this. I don’t want to be seen in here.”
“Yeah cause God forbid people suspect you have a sister you’re buying something for.”
He ignores me and asks the woman at the counter for a 30 dollar gift certificate and she gets one ready for us. I cough up my 15 dollars and watch as the dad lifts up the little girl and carries her out of the store.
“Lets go find mommy!” He tells her as they bounce away.
“Hey guys, where did you go?” He asks.
“To the mall.” Isaac replies and sets a couple bags down on the counter.
“I thought you hated the mall, Zac.” Taylor says to me, raising an eyebrow.
“I do. But if I need to get something, then I’ll go. I don’t see the point though in surrounding myself with chaos though if I don’t have to.”
Mom smiles and breaks an egg into a bowl. “You are the epitome of a practical man, you know.”
I don’t know if it’s a compliment or if she’s teasing me. I peer into her bowl and sniff it. “What is it?”
“It’s the cheese for lasagna. Ricotta, shredded mozzarella, and eggs.” She hands me a spoon to let me try and I taste a bit of it.
“I hope those raw eggs are not diseased…” Taylor sing-songs at me, “Then again, if you get sick that means I get extra lasagna and that is not such a bad thing.” He is in a good mood.
“Oh really? Well then, that means you can have his salad too then,” Mom winks at Taylor. He makes a gagging noise. Taylor is one of the few adults in this world who absolutely cannot stand salad. I don’t know how since it’s a pretty bland taste. But he hates the thought of eating what he calls “grass”.
Mom nods at our bags, “What did you two pick up today?”
Isaac sifts through the bags, “I got a shirt that I wanted at Pacsun, oh and a sweatshirt. And we got Jess a gift.”
“Zac, you didn’t get anything?” She questions me.
“I don’t need anything.”
She smiles and shakes her head. “Practical man…” She reiterates and checks the temperature on the oven.
Jessica bounces down the stairs and walks into the room. She looks at the Pacsun bag and raises an eyebrow, “What’d you get?”
“A gift for you!” Taylor says. He is unusually talkative. This is something that makes me jealous of Taylor. Isaac and I are pretty much in consistently murky moods. For the most part we’re depressed and sad these days. Taylor on the other hand, while he has his explosive temper, has the ability to have days where he is just happy and excited about life. I crave that feeling of excitement that he manages to sometimes assemble.
“What did you get me at Pacsun?”
“A trucker hat. All you ever wanted!” He smirks to himself and watches Mackie playing baseball out the window.
“Your gift is from another store and its inside the Pacsun bag,” I tell her.
She reaches for the bag and I slap her wrist. “No peeking!”
“Ow Zac! That seriously hurt.” She inspects her battered wrist as I roll my eyes.
“Zac, don’t hurt your sister.” Mom says without turning around. She is peering into the fridge.
Taylor laughs at her, “Mom, you know what? I think you’re a robot. And you just have certain mom phrases that come out of your mouth automatically. You were programmed to say that.”
Jessica, Isaac, and I exchange expressions and Jessie motions that Taylor is crazy.
“You’re an idiot Taylor. You really are.” Isaac says dryly. We all laugh.
On cue we all disperse around the house. Isaac and I head to the living room where I gladly let him take his recliner without putting up a fight. Jessie grabs a pair of sneakers and goes outside to talk to Mackie.
I flip on the television and start searching through channels. I pause to think briefly about my pathetic existence. This is how I spend my Saturday afternoon. I should be outside on my dirt bike with my friends or out to lunch with my girlfriend. Both are pretty nonexistent to me though.
Isaac leans back in the recliner and puts his feet up. He takes a very small notebook out of his pocket.
“What is that?” I ask him. We used to keep small notebooks like that with us all the time when we were young. But since we stopped doing music we haven’t needed to jot down lyrics much anymore.
“What is what?” He knows exactly what I’m talking about. He just likes to hear the sound of his own voice. I’m convinced.
“The notebook. Duh.”
“It’s just that. A notebook. Duh.”
I sigh exasperated and look at the television. I know if I wait long enough Isaac will eventually tell me voluntarily. Like I said, he likes the sound of his own voice.
A couple minutes later he speaks again. “I’ve been working on poetry.”
I pause before talking just to ensure that I don’t laugh. Poetry? What kind of straight guy works on poetry without a gun held at his temple? “How come?”
“Because. We gave up on music so I want to at least keep working on my writing ability.” Do my brothers always feel the need to throw that knife at me whenever they can? They’re so hostile at me for giving up on the band.
“Oh.” I say flatly. I cannot really think Isaac is that pathetic. Writing poetry, as dorky as it seems, is at least more productive than my life.
Without you now shouldn’t feel any different than it felt then.
I have always been without you.
All my life I’ve been without you.
All I know is without you.
All I am is without you.
I should be without pain without you.
I am without reason for crying without you.
My heart bleeds without you.
But without you is no different than without you has ever been.
Taylor bounds into the room and sits down on the couch next to me. “Oh Zachary.”
“What?” I refuse to pull my eyes off the TV to look at him. He’s being obnoxious.
“There’s a very sexy sounding lady on the phone asking for you…” He excitedly waits for my expression.
Finally I look at him and scan his face. I get up and walk towards the kitchen phone. I cannot help but feel a spring in my step. Who on earth…?
I pick the phone up off the counter and listen into it. No sound. “Hello?”
“Hey Zachary. It’s Grandma!” I make a mental note to kick Taylor after this. I can hear him laughing to himself from inside the living room.
“How are you doing kiddo? What’s up in your life? I haven’t seen you in forever.”
“Yeah I know. Like two weeks Grandma.”
“That seems like forever when you’re 72 years young.” I crack a smile at Grandma.
“I’m pretty good. Went to the mall today.”
“That sounds fun. What did you do?” Everyone is impressed that I actually got off my butt and rejoined civilization for the day. I cannot help but feel a bit proud of myself too.
“Ike and I went shopping for Jessica’s birthday gift. He got some junk too.”
“Just what that crowded house of yours needs right? More junk. I have a question for you though.”
“What are your plans for next weekend?”
“I didn’t really have any,” I tell her, rubbing my socked foot at a scuffmark on the kitchen floor. She knows I don’t have plans but like a good Grandmother pretends that she thinks perhaps I could have a life. She knows I don’t though.
“I was wondering if you could come over for the day on Saturday and paint the garage for me. I would pay you.”
Mom can obviously hear the entire conversation because she looks at me and shakes her head. “No money,” she whispers.
Even though the last thing I want to do on an Oklahoma Saturday in August is be outside painting a garage, I know I cannot tell my grandmother no. I cannot help but wonder why she’s asking me though.
“Sure, I guess.” I tell her, “I’ll do it for free though. I don’t need any money.”
“Oh nonsense. Tell your mother I wouldn’t feel right without giving you something.” I smile at my mom. Grandma knows my mom too well. “Can you come here around 10 in the morning?”
10 in the morning? I groan inwardly. I don’t usually wake up until at least eleven and it’s an hour-long drive to Grandma’s. “Sure, why not?” Why not is something I say a lot but it’s a really good philosophy to have. When in doubt if you can do something ask yourself why not. You will find you really have no reason not to.
“Okay good. You’ve got a ride?”
“I can drive myself now Gram.” She still thinks I’m 12 years old, I swear.
“Alright. Put your mom on the phone. See you Saturday.”
“Okay. Bye Grandma. Love you.”
She says goodbye to me and I hand the phone off to my mother. I run back into the living room to pounce on Taylor but it’s just Isaac again working on his poetry. I smirk to myself at the thought and stand in front of the recliner.
“Where is Taylor?” I ask.
“Ran away from you. I would try his bedroom if I were you. He’s probably up there cutting out paper hearts and stringing them from his windows. I swear. The kid is on some bizarre happy spell this afternoon.”
I grin at Isaac’s shot at Taylor and run up the stairs screaming. “Taylor! One would think your only issue is that you think Grandma sounds sexy! But actually when I find you will have plenty more issues too!”
Regret never giving regret a thought
When the net in which you were caught
Forced you to make a choice without
Time to really sort to out.
Regret that regret was never a concern
Regret the past so you can learn
That life without regret stands still
That we don’t know who we are until
We regret never remembering regret