“You. I don’t like you anymore,” the handsome face said.
“Nobody asked you, so mind your own business.”
“Why’d you do those things?”
“I don’t even know what you’re talking about.”
“You can trick other people but you can’t trick me. You know what I’m talking about.”
Jay paused, unsure what the handsome face was getting at. As he sat thinking, his whole body twitched with a sudden, violent realization, as if he had been waked from a dream, and he knew what the face had meant. “Oh no no no,” he whined in protest. “You don’t understand! I didn’t—”
“Look, I’m not accusing you of anything. I’m not here for that,” said the handsome face. “I’m here because you want me to be here. We can do whatever you want to do.”
Jay’s eyes glassed over. “I don’t want you to be disappointed in me,” he said weakly. “I’m not ready. I can’t do it.”
“When will you be ready?”
“I don’t know. Tomorrow. Just shut up for a second,” Jay said, getting nasty. He clenched his eyes shut, then relaxed them. He hoped when he looked again at the face in the chair it would be gone. It wasn't gone, but it wasn’t the same face, either. It flickered like fire and was hard to see. He was scared. “You better get the hell out of here, I’m doing something. There’s something I’m—” he shut his eyes again and compulsively tapped his temples with his fingers.
“I know what you’re doing. Relax. Put on your music,” the voice sounded choppy, a vibration speaking to him through a fan.
“This is why I told you to shut up. I can be ready. You need to shut up. I can’t even come here without you being here. You weren’t here when I got here and then you just show up. You’re the goddamn Devil.”
“Kind of,” said the vibration.
“What do you want from me?” sniffed Jay.
“I want you to put your music on and relax. That’s all. Then you can just sit there and we can talk about it.”
Jay eyed the vibrating fiend with suspicion, but he obeyed. The needle hit, and hurried agitated piano opened into a singer who sang a fiery wicked wasteland and a lost boy who found perfect love that wouldn't last, and the song made him feel hot, like he was that boy in a fiery wasteland. He slumped into the chair. He started to cry, and he felt silly about it. He didn’t really know why he was crying.
“Feel better now?” the vibration affected concern.
Jay closed his eyes and shook his head again but the vibration was too loud and he could still hear it. He sat for a long time with his eyes closed and the voice continued to howl and chatter.
The heat caused Jay’s neck to itch. He scratched but it wasn’t satisfying. The itch moved, so he followed it around to his ear. He scratched until his earring came out in his hand, and there was blood under his nails. He threw the earring across the room and turned his attention to the record sleeve, which he flipped upside-down. There was a beautiful, musical rustling, like metallic leaves.
Damp with sweat, he fell off the chair, palming the shadowy ground for the contents of the sleeve—a piece of aluminum foil, a small plastic container, and a bubble tea straw. He held the straw in his teeth and flattened the foil with his trembling red fingers. Unsealing the plastic, he emptied it onto the foil, listening for the soft familiar sound, like sand hurled about by the wind. Saliva wet the corners of his mouth as he adjusted the straw, and lowering his head over the foil he lit the underside. The little shards on the foil liquefied, running like a tear toward him. He chased the tear down the sheet of foil, violently inhaling, then holding the foil level and violently exhaling. He did it again, inhaling and exhaling. He did it a third time and gagged from the smoke, which tasted like burnt rust.
In an instant he felt so strong that he wanted to run outside and knock the world down so that he could build it back up again. He shook his head, searching for something to accomplish.
“Who turned on the light?” he asked aloud. The room was illuminated. “Was it you?” he said to the vibration. The vibration wasn’t there. Jay bit his fingernail like a dog searching for a parasite in its fur.
He started to cry again, and this time he knew why—he felt guilty. He danced where he stood, unable to stand still. Holding his face in his hand, he mumbled to himself. “OhgodohgodohgodwhatamIgonnadoIamgoingtohellIamgoingtodieohmygodwhat—” he broke off. Then suddenly he threw his fist in the air, pointing his finger. “I got it!” he screamed. “I can get on my knees,” he said, huffing and panting. He found it hard because he was starting to feel claustrophobic. He felt the shed shrink around him, or else he grew. Once on his knees, he looked up through the skylight and held his hands over his head, moving his mouth. He felt that the faster he moved his mouth, the more productive his prayer would be, but he couldn’t form words, he just garbled nonsense. He finally was able to articulate two words: SAVE ME. He trembled, and waited.
An angry car horn sounded several times from down the street, then nearer, then nearer until it sounded like it was going to crash through the skylight. Instead, it spoke.
“‘Ala!” boomed the new voice. Wide eyed and afraid, Jay stood and listened. “Listen to me. You must listen to Akua, son,” commanded the new voice. The voice was deep and familiar and comforting. It was a voice he felt that he heard every day of his life, but he couldn't place it. “Son: Please kokua.”
“Save me!” Jay cried out to the familiar voice, although he didn’t feel at that exact moment that he wanted to be saved. In fact, he wanted whoever was talking to him to go away.
“Please. Kokua. I will not forsake you, son,” the voice said to him, “and I won’t condemn you, either. That’s the best I can do. The rest is up to you. I've told you what you have to do.”
“That’s right. That’s fucking right!" Jay really felt that he understood now. “I can do it. I’m going to live. I’m not going to die. I’m going to live. I’m going to live!” he repeated again and again. He felt a great force in his chest, or in his head. It gathered in him like rumbling lava. “You watch, God!” he called to the sky. A neighbor’s dog barked. “I’m not going to let you down! I’m going to change—e ola au i ke Akua!”
He ran out of the shed to the street to the four way stop, spiraling wildly in each direction, as if he could see to the very end of each street, as if he had suddenly gotten a bit of the Divine Providence. “I’ve gotta go tell that red headed couple! I’ve gotta tell them! We might be related! Josh!” he called in a kind of ecstasy, his voice cracking as he raced down the hill toward Waikiki.