I woke up slowly, groggily, in the middle of the afternoon. That feeling that something is wrong, everything is wrong.
Paper hospital bracelet on my wrist.
Raw pain between my legs. Hollowness in my gut.
Frank sitting across from me, staring at me like he's willed me awake with his glare, yellow hospital discharge papers and pink "what do do after you've been sexually assaulted" handout from the rape crisis center clutched in thick, shaky hands. "What the fuck is this?"
I met Frank at a poetry open mic night at Cafe Espresso Roma. I'd staked out my usual table, right behind the side door. He made a beeline for me - young punk in black leather, tufts of freshly-dyed green hair sticking up everywhere - black Docs beaten to hell. One green shoelace, one purple. He made a beeline for me, introduced himself, and his big pickup line was "Hey, my hair's the same color as your shirt." I let him down easy, but he persisted in an eager-puppy way - until Layne arrived and hugged me, and then he practically went pale. "Shit, I'm sorry, Layne, I didn't know she was your old lady!" Turned out the guys knew each other from before Frank had gone to jail. He'd just gotten out the previous day.
I never did find out what he was in jail for. I was told not to ask.
I looked around. No Donald. "Where's Donald?"
Frank waved toward the door impatiently. "Grocery shopping. Harmony. What the fuck is this?"
His hands were creasing the papers. I remember not wanting them to tear. I remember that being important. "Where's Layne?"
"I don't fucking know!"
I curled up tighter. "I need Layne." Layne didn't know. It seemed so strange that this huge thing had happened and Layne was out there not knowing, Layne was out there selling or hanging out at Copioh or whatever. An imbalance in the Force. How could anything like this happen and everyone not know?
"This is - this is shit about rape."
I closed my eyes. Go away.
"Did... someone hurt you. Someone hurt you. Didn't they."
There was a wobble in his voice, and I opened my eyes. Frank was crying. Not sobbing, just - tears in his eyes. Spilling down his cheeks.
There was no one on earth Frank looked up to more than Layne. He tagged along with us on an almost constant basis. Layne just didn't let him go on deals, because he was hot-tempered and unpredictable... so often, when Layne was selling, Frank would hang out with me. Just walking around Vegas at night. Telling me about his life. Listening to my stories. I got to think of him as a kid brother. I'm not entirely sure how he thought of me.
"Yeah," I whispered. "Someone hurt me."
His mood changed. Abruptly. Snapped into fury. Shaking hands. "Tell me."
"I need Layne!"
Donald's key in the door. Donald's worried face. "Hey - you okay?"
Frank practically snarling at Donald: "Who did this to her?"
"I don't know."
"I didn't know him," I whispered. No one I knew. Nothing I could have known.
I closed my eyes. Took a shuddery breath. And told him. Told him everything. My eyes closed the whole time. Couldn't look at him. Couldn't bear to.
When it was over...
"Where does he live?"
Opened my eyes. Looked at him. Pale as death, red-rimmed eyes, adrenaline tremble. Hair even more mussed than usual from him bunching it in his hands as I talked; dark roots showing. "What?"
"You said he took you to his apartment. I know you - you remember where the apartment is. Where is it?"
Shuddery breath. "I'm not telling you."
Shock on his face. And a lost look. "Why not?"
Because I don't know why you were in jail, but I know it was for violence, not drugs. And I know your temper is so uncontrollable that Layne doesn't trust you even on a milk run. I will not be responsible for you ending up in jail again, little brother. "Not until I see Layne."
I saw it settle on his face. It made sense to him - his kind of sense. Layne's girlfriend. Layne's prey, then. "I don't know where he is."
"Please find him?"
I hadn't cried yet. I felt hollow and dry. The magnitude of this is too great for tears. My body had not accepted it yet.
So I didn't cry. But my voice broke a little on that, on "Please find him?" And I think it was that that got Frank out the door.
Donald made me vegetable soup. Chunks of potato and carrot. I ate it sitting on the Bermuda bed, hunched over the coffee table. My movements were so slow. Ghostlike.
It took hours for Layne and Hal to come back. And when I saw them, it was clear that Frank hadn't found them first.
I'll write more later. I don't like being here.