The events described in this story are fictional. The author makes no assertion about the lives or characters of the real people whose names and identities she has used in the writing of this story, and makes no money from it.

Drinking in LA


When Elijah comes around, he finds there's been a sprain, or a strain, or
(as Dom explains) definitely something.
he's not sure, he twisted it somehow,
bashed it on something.
There is minor bruising, tenderness,
the faintest suggestion of limp dishrag.

He's been trying to do his eyes.
"I messed them up wrong."

Right wrist curled inward to his chest,
he rubs at the eyes with damp Kleenex,
rubbing from black to red.

Elijah suggests a doctor, is scoffed at.
It's nothing. Not that bad.
And Dom turns away, protects his right hand with his left. Leave it.
He'd rather it wasn't touched.

And yet. He will forget the hand.
Carelessly reach out for something,
someone. And then he will seem surprised.
Elijah wants to take that hand and smash it,
stretch it. Fix it up. Set it in plaster,
or cement.
Just to make sure.
He'll fix Dom up. Fix him up good.
Imagine Elijah the nurse! In neat hospital whites,
going round and fixing people up all the time.
Cleaning up shit and blood and vomit.
and not even really minding.

He has this thing he wants when he looks at the hand,
at its imagined greenish tinge. Sick hand.
He thinks Dom should remember about the hand. Not
just take it for granted, the fineness, the okayness of the hand.
Elijah wants the hand bandaged, plastered, stitched.
Something that Dom will have to notice, and say
Yes, the hand. Oh, the hand! I did that. I should be more careful
with hands, and people, and me.

him over there, Oh fuck-
ing and chucking
a ballpoint pen across the room.
He says,

"I don't believe in ambidextrous people. What the fuck, I mean
it's impossible."

Dom's need to ink himself up for the night
makes Elijah want to laugh, in that
not completely kind
not completely not
way we reserve for old friends.

"I don’t believe," he says,
"you're really that incompetent."

Dom shrugs, mock-helpless, his face, as ever, looking
like it can't decide which way to collapse.

Elijah feels an angry, hot white desire to take care of everything
for everyone. To solve all problems
before they arise. To make things neat
and have them turn out right.

Sometimes he just can't stand the mess of life a second longer.

"Okay, okay. I'll fix it."

I'll be your tattooist this evening.
How can I help?
Will it be the usual, sir? Little inky stars?
Random words you pulled out of a magazine
or your tangle of a brain?
Perhaps I can interest you in a fire-breathing dragon
rampaging up your spine for the girls,
or your mum's name fluttering satin-smooth across your bicep?
How about this now: a red sponge of a heart, arrow-pierced,
Warm and sodden and messy,
bleeding all over you.

In the end it's back to the eyeliner.
"You have to smudge it, fuck it up a bit.
Looks better."

Elijah kneels awkwardly, trying not to breath wet all over
Dom's upturned face: Dom with his eyes
rolled up to heaven.
Like this, he is still and patient
as a child,
his mouth a desperately serious,
unhelpfully wavy pencil line, a line
someone drew
when they were thinking about something else.

Elijah grumbles, laughing, shuffling on his knees. "Man,
I don't know what the fuck I'm doing..."

"Don't worry..."

"...scared I'll poke you in the eye..."

It is strange and unnatural
to stick a pencil in a friend's face
to try to draw on them, to give them extra outlines.
Like saying these are my friend's eyes.
No really they are. Look
I'll prove it. This here, it's an eye. And here --
another one.
Imagine the squeaky magic marker sound,
circling the key points
again and again.

He puts his thumb under Dom's eye.
"Don't move."

He can feel Dom breathing
concentrating on stillness.
The skin under the eyes feels hot,
the flesh springy-fragile
like something small and tender.
A mouse
or something.

The lash-hairs brush the ridged whorl of Elijah's thumb,
tiny wire defenders.
He rubs, barely. His hand quivers
with the effort of gentleness.

The lid springing shut
startles him with the light down touch
of the upper lash.

"S'all right."

There is something horribly intimate
about an eyelid
when you really get down to it.

Now Dom stands plucking at himself
left-handed, eyebrow-waggling at himself
in the mirror.
"Not bad."

"I dunno..."
Elijah, deadpan.
"I think you look like a cheap prostitute."

"Oh, fuck off." Dom grabs
things, keys, cigarettes,
a toy plastic dinosaur...
stared at for blank seconds,
and thrown back down on a chair.

His mouth twists improbably
at the gaping tunnel of the hallway
as they leave.

"I'm quite expensive, actually.
I doubt you could afford me."



In nineteen-
The Pet Shop Boys covered Always On My Mind and it was number one in the charts for four weeks.
Dom has this memory of
ringing up the
number you know the number you could ring
You could ring a number and you could hear the number,
the number one. The song.
You know, whatever was number one that week, you could hear it.

Hear it
thin and squashed, flat tin-can fuzz coming out through the receiver.

And anyway, when Dom discovered this it was that song, it was the Pet Shop Boys doing
Always On My Mind.
So he kept on phoning up this number
like every day, like a few times a day. Like several.
He just had this itch, this itchy itching itch
to hear Neil Tennant's funny
thin, phone-tinny voice,
enunciating a bit too much
right into his ear like that.
He'd sneak into the hallway
or his parent's bedroom.
He would tingle in a state of strange excitement,
sitting there on his mum and dad's duvet.
Fucking, a bit...
fucking weird really.

Eventually he was found out. And stopped.

And anyway all this
means nothing, except
that he is lying on his bedroom floor,
his head an empty fuzzy container for
words and the tune, like
Maybe I never something...
all those something something something-ings...
Maybe I should have something...
Something something lalalalala...

and the last bit may have been out loud, he can't be sure,
because Elijah is weeping like a girl on Dom's bed.

Dom, faintly,
lifting his head from the carpet.
"No, don't cry, mate." The head,
when it whacks back on the floor,
He doesn't remember it being that heavy.

"I'm not fucking crying!"
Hoarse, he is, Elijah,
to the point of a squeak.
Mouse. Horse.

"I'm laughing, look --"
He staggers over the difficult floor.
Fingers poked in the corners of his mouth, dragging them up.
Eyes beer-filmed.
He looks like a deranged plastic Lego person.

"I'm drunk," he says.
I'm so, so drunk."

"Come down here,"
Dom suggests. "Come down here on the carpet."


Because Dom never knew
the carpet was so nice before.
to know a carpet for more than a year
and yet not really know it,
you know? Not to this extent, anyway.

"Meet my carpet," he says.
"Say Hi carpet.

"I'm so drunk," says Elijah. "And
I didn't look after you,
and now you will never play the piano again."

Dom thinks, silly.
How would a carpet play the piano?
the wrist.
The wrist is in a bandage thing now,
after the incident with the pool cue.

"Oh, yeah,"
jaw stretching back,
stretching words out of shape.
"You're pretty fucking evil, Elijah."

"I'm a bad person. I am. Really."

He says, "Test it. Elijah.
Test my wrist, go on.
Touch it.
Go on."

"No, fuck off, Dom.
Leave it alone." He's up and away.

So Dom tests it himself. Wobbly.
He wonders how far...
Ow, fuck.
Not that far.

Well. Now he knows.

"Yeah, you're a terrible person, Elijah. Not like that nurse at the ER. She was nice."

"She was nice. She was hot."

"She was lovely."

"I'm going home now."

Scrambling up -- no, not that hand --
Managing to grab something to haul on.
Ah. Elijah's leg.
He knew it would come in handy one of these days.

"Why, where, what?
You're too drunk.
You've gotta sleep on the carpet with me."

"God, you never take anything seriously."

"No, I do, I'm very serious, look.

Pause. Which of them is swaying?
Maybe both?
Or just the room?
Maybe let go of the leg now.

"No, I'm going."

"You can't!
You don't know where you live and I can prove it."

A foolish boast.

He can prove nothing.
Never has been able to.
Always biting off
more than he can chew,
always shooting
for the moon, for satellites.
For the day-glo stars and planets
on the ceiling of his room.

His mum said,
You're a magpie, Dom.

It's not his fault.
He likes
small things that twinkle, he likes
anything that catches the eye.

It's always been
pink plastic things you stick in drinks,
Happy Meal toys,
the glint of zips
in sparkly synthetics.
It's always been
small things that crackle
and shine.

It was noise, too.
Buzzing noises.
High-pitched, anything
out of the ordinary. Anything
slightly off.

Strange kid.
But he's done well for himself, considering.
Yeah, pretty much.

"Just... stay here, all right?"
I'll be hurt if you don't.
I'm hurt already.
See what happens when you're not here?

Elijah folds his arms.
He looks tireder now, less drunk.
His face is a little puffy.
His hair sticks up from when it met the carpet.

"I have a headache."

"That's telling you, that's saying,
it's saying, Don't go home.
You know.
One of those headaches."

"Okay, yeah, whatever. Do you have, like,
aspirin or something?"

"Dunno, might do."

"You should take some now."


"Stops the brain... something. I'm not sleeping on the carpet."

"You don't have to."
Oh, you don't have to.

It's not his fault.
It's always been
small things that crackle
and shine.
Static on the radio.
Stars in his eyes.

It's always been pretty things
with edges
that glimmer brightly in the dark.

It's not his fault.
He really can't help himself.