Cheers for the reviews
'Carmine, there are some blokes here who say they've come to drop off a Chrysler for you. They look pretty dodgy. They reckon a lawyer sent them. Is this legit?'
Geoff, one of my bosses, sounded concerned. He wasn't sure why two strange men had come around to our workplace with a twelve month old Chrysler 300C in tow. He sounded suspicious, as though the delivery of the vehicle might in some way be related to the Mafia. Fortunately for all involved, the truth wasn't nearly so dramatic. It was Geoff's family who were involved in organized crime, not mine.
'Um, yeah,' I replied. 'I told one of the girls in the office it was coming, but I guess they forgot to tell you. It's from my father's estate. Is it okay if they leave it there?'
'No problems from my end,' Geoff replied, sounding relieved. 'I'll have them leave it in staff parking. I'll hang onto the keys until you get here.'
The Chrysler was the one item from my inheritance that I was keeping. Everything else I'd signed away yesterday afternoon. Nonno had bought the house from me for the nominal sum of one dollar, and I'd transferred the cash and shares I'd received into his name. It was almost over. If only I hadn't agreed to accept Dad's car, there wouldn't even be anything tangible left to remind me of what had come to pass.
I'd accepted the car only because at the time when Nonno was persuading me to take it, I'd been struck by a sudden and unexpected melancholy. I missed my father, and regretted – in some odd, inexplicable way – that he'd passed away before I'd had a chance to say good-bye. He hadn't been a bad man, and I would have appreciated the opportunity to tell him that my estrangement was not his fault. It wasn't anyone's fault, really, except mine.
That afternoon, I arrived back at base to find my car was attracting a lot of attention. It was an unusual model in Australia, and the fact that I was now in the possession of a car worth twice my annual salary was deemed by my workmates to be particularly curious.
'It was my father's,' I explained. 'He died. He left me his car.'
'I never knew your folks were cashed up,' one of the guys remarked.
I shrugged. 'It's not like I have any of it.'
Twenty-four hours ago my statement would have been a lie, but from now onwards, it was the truth. I was the same old broke Carmine I'd always been.
The hardest part was explaining that my father hadn't died in the past few weeks, but over six months ago. They wanted to know why I hadn't told anyone. They were curious as to why the estate was only now being finalized. Thankfully, Shay soon arrived and I used him as an excuse to leave the scene without answering their questions.
I drove to Shay's apartment in my new car, with a towel on the seat to protect the leather, half-wishing I'd had the car delivered to my home address. The only reason I'd opted to have it delivered to work was that the solicitor had advised that I'd need someone to sign for delivery, and work was too busy for me to take a day off and wait around for a car to arrive.
When I arrived, I parked the car in the garage and went upstairs. We might not have been officially living together, but we spent most nights together, either at his house or mine. Until the sudden arrival of Nonno, and the news that my father had died, we'd had a pretty cruisy relationship.
Shay wasn't the brightest guy, or the best-dressed, but he was a good kind of boyfriend to have. He was sweet and caring, and when I was bedridden with the flu for a week, two months into our relationship, he'd done everything in his power to make me feel less miserable. I could deal with his tendency to dominate the relationship, his shitty dress sense, and his large gaps of knowledge when the pay-off was A-class reliability and tenderness. Plus, he was good in bed. That was definitely something that worked in his favour.
My lover was having a shower when I arrived. I went to his room, shut the door, stripped off, and walked into his ensuite. He jolted in shock when I walked in, which made me laugh.
'Shut-up,' he ordered good-naturedly. 'You coming in?'
I walked in and shut the door behind me. 'Yup.'
Shay's idea of showering was to wet, lather and rinse. Mine was a little more detailed, and involved shaving various parts of my body. He always complained about me shaving; said it dulled his razors because my hair was so thick and dense, and I always ignored him, unwilling to go au naturel.
'I dunno why you bother,' he remarked, watching me disinterestedly. 'You didn't shave in jail.'
'I didn't have money for a new razor every second day.'
Shay always reminded me of jail. We'd first met there, unfortunately enough. I hated jail, hated being incarcerated, and I hated knowing that when people asked me where I met my boyfriend, I always had to make up a lie. I could hardly say 'I was his bitch', could I? Shay, on the other hand, didn't have many problems making references to it. It probably wasn't too surprising. He was incarcerated from age seventeen to thirty, which is a hell of a big chunk of anyone's life, especially for someone who is now only thirty-one.
He shrugged. 'You looked fine. You're not super hairy.'
I tapped my razor against the wall, getting out all the bits of hair that were stuck in it. I frowned in disgust, and splashed water on it to wash it away. 'That's a matter of opinion.'
'You get a spiky bum when you shave.'
'Nope. I get a spiky bum when I can't shave regularly because someone keeps pestering me.' I pulled a face and tried to swipe the razor along his snail trail, hoping to remove a patch of hair. Unfortunately I was a little off target.
Shay grabbed my wrist and removed the razor from my hand. 'I only need one circumcision.'
'Yeah, I reckon.' He put the razor in the shower basket and turned off the water. 'Let's get dressed and go for a ride in your car.'
'A ride? You're going to let me drive?'
'Of course. It was your old man's car.' Shay looked puzzled. 'Why would I drive it?'
'You normally drive.'
I rolled my eyes. 'Yes. All the time. Nice to see you're paying attention.'
Shay might have protested that he didn't intentionally hog the driver's seat, but twenty minutes later when we went to take the Chrysler out, he went directly to the driver's side door. Being the loving boyfriend I am, I pushed him out of the way and smirked.
'Please don't crash,' he requested.
'No, Shay, I was planning on driving into the nearest wall.'
He threw me the bird. 'You're such a fucking smartarse to me. You're not a smartarse to anyone else.'
'It's one of those unexpected gifts I give to my lovers.' I smiled at him. 'Where did you want to go?'
'Anywhere. I dunno.'
We drove around the area aimlessly. It was the tail end of peak hour, and the traffic was still fairly thick. Shay sat in the passenger seat and stared serenely at the traffic, in between checking out the features of my new car. I privately wondered what was going through his mind. The car was tangible evidence that my inheritance had been substantial, and that the house and cash I'd given away were of value.
Shay wasn't from a rich family. His father was an alcoholic, and his parents had struggled to feed and clothe their children. I was the opposite. My parents had, if not money to burn, then certainly a comfortable amount. I'd never wanted for anything. There had been plenty of good food, nannies to keep me occupied, and annual journeys back to my parents' homeland.
My parents' faults had been few, and in my mother's case, insubstantial. My mother was a serious shopper, and a bit of a man eater, but she was there for all the big occasions in my life and in her own, private, way, she loved me. My father's faults were embarrassing, but not terrible. They were embarrassing mainly because they was public, so public in fact, that even Shay was confronted with evidence of it as he retrieved a yellow envelope from the glove box, and emptied out the contents.
'Wow,' he remarked simply.
My face burned with embarrassment. 'What?'
He showed me a picture of a blonde woman in a compromising position. The man's face and most of his body were missing from the picture, but I had no problems guessing who it was.
'Are there any more?' I asked.
'Two more, and this.'
In his hand was a baggie of coke. I knew what it was, just as I knew who was with the blonde woman, because here were his two biggest flaws; womanizing and snorting lines, tucked away in the glovebox of a car that had been sitting in storage for the past six months.
'Shit,' I swore, in a tone void of emotion.
Shay put the photo and baggie back in the envelope and returned it the glovebox. 'I'm sorry.'
'Don't be. I'm not surprised. Annoyed that I've inherited a few grams more than I thought, but not that's not your fault.'
'I'll tip it down the toilet,' he offered. 'So, um, you don't get tempted.'
'That would be good. I'd appreciate that. Thank-you.'
'Do you want me to get rid of the pictures as well?'
I was shaking as I drove down a side street and parked the car. I took my pouch of tobacco from my pocket and rolled myself a cigarette. Shay didn't comment, and in regards to making the interior of the car stink, well it was already too late for that; like me, my father had been a smoker. The car already had the lingering scent of stale tobacco to it.
'Don't,' I replied firmly. I picked up his hand, which he'd placed on my thigh, and put it in his lap. 'Not now. Not now. I need to calm down.'
It should have been nothing; just a few fuck photos and drugs. Shit, the truth was that if I was only now coming across a few bad photos of my father's girlfriend, and there were no drugs, and I didn't know who the woman was, I'd pass it off. He was a grown, divorced man, he had a right to have a few nasty photos in his car. There were certainly nasty photos of me out there, so I definitely couldn't have faulted him for it.
The problem was that it wasn't just a few fuck photos of a random woman. It was a few fuck photos of my Aunt Alyssa, who was married to Ugo, and who had several children I'd grown up. The affair was a longstanding one, and Alyssa had been one of my father's numerous women. Everyone had known what they were doing. Family functions were always embarrassing, and my cousins would tease me because they were angry with me, angry with me for having a father who'd sleep with their mother.
Yet if the photos irritated me, it was the presence of cocaine that really shit me off. It has been my father's habit had spawned mine, and even if I accepted the blame for taking it too far, I was still angry that he'd been the one who initially encouraged me. He'd spend a lifetime teaching me how to pick up women, and how to please them. When he'd realized I preferred men, I was given drugs and free women. The former had made the latter palatable. In fact, the former had made everything in my life more palatable, and I soon found myself having a second go at getting high, then a third, then a fourth, until suddenly, I couldn't stop.
By the end I was stealing from my parents, stealing from my sister, stealing from, well, fuck, everyone. This caught my parent's attention. It would have been incorrect to say my father was unconcerned; in fact, his reaction was one of complete alarm. He'd only intended to show me what it was like. He hadn't expected me to take it up as a habit.
My folks pushed me to go to rehab, but I refused. I was happy when I was high, and I wasn't going to hang around and let them take that away. I ran away, and never spoke to them, never let them know that I was okay. I let my rage at them guide me away, and when my rage died, and common sense kicked in, I used my embarrassment – it would be humiliating to return – as an excuse.
Sure, I didn't blame them for what I'd done, but that didn't mean I wasn't emotionless about it. The drugs and the pictures invoked certain feelings, bringing back the kind of memories that it's really easiest not to deal with. I'd never known how to reconcile my acceptance that I'd taken things way, way too far with my resentment with Dad for giving me cocaine and encouraging it's initial use.
'Carmine,' Shay repeated.
'I'm going to puke,' I warned him.
He quickly got out and helped me exit the car. I held onto him tightly, terrified that he was going to leave, as I vomited onto the road, my heart constricting with anger and frustration and grief.
Shay remained by my side, calm and strong. He stroked my back, and when I'd finished puking, gave me his shirt to clean up with.
'It's a fucking daggy shirt, even by my standards,' he joked.
'God, I'm sorry,' I muttered.
'It's sweet, Carmine,' he said, helping me around to the passenger side of the car. He sat me down and wiped a bit of puke away from my mouth. 'If my old man died, I'd be upset, and you know how much I fucking hate him.'
I wanted to reply, but couldn't, not until I was sure I wasn't going to cry. Neither of us had cried in front of the other before, and I didn't want to start now.
As it happened, we were almost home before I trusted myself to speak and even then, I had to plan what I was going to say before I actually opened my mouth.
'I know that fucking up my life was my own fault. I'm not blaming anyone for that, and I'm not mad at my father, if that's what you're thinking,' I explained. 'The thing is, I'm angry I didn't see Dad before he died. I regret it. I don't miss him, and don't want to have to go back to being part of the family, but being apart isn't so good, either.'
Shay pulled into his driveway. 'You can't have your cake and eat it,' he gently pointed out. 'If you're going to regret it in the long run, why don't you go and see them before it's too late?'
'Because I'm scared they'll push for too much. I'm not ready to give that to them.'
Shay regarded me carefully. 'Aren't you always telling me to be firm with my family?'
'That's different. You're not me. There's a bloody big difference between telling someone what to do, and actually taking your own advice.'
My lover smiled. 'Shit, hey?'
'Shit.' I agreed. 'Now please get rid of that envelope and everything in it. I don't ever want to see that again. Later on tonight, I'll tell you precisely why, too.'