A lot of folks have reached out to ask me about Devin’s story. You may have met him in ‘The Takedown’. So I thought I’d give you a sample to let you know I’m working on it. This one is actually super-important to me, and I want to get it right. So, I’m projecting a late summer-early fall release. I work on it every now and then, when something strikes me about Devin. His story is not unlike that of someone I know and love very much, so I can’t screw it up. It will be a love story, of course, but with elements of two people learning to love themselves just as they learn to love each other. At the moment, I think I’m going to call it ‘The Broken’. Here’s a sample. Enjoy.
From ‘The Broken’:
Half past midnight and well past drunk, Harper was sitting on the floor of her living room, pretending it didn’t matter that Matt and his boyfriend were cuddling on the sofa; and near her on the floor, his sister Sloan and her boyfriend, Ross were doing the same. They were watching a soulful French film that was non-linear and not at all conducive to getting drunk and high. The last thing one wanted to do when they had been drinking and smoking was read. And the second to last thing one wanted to do was feel like the fifth wheel. Harper was doing both.
All evening, she had been reaching for her phone, pretending to check iMessage, as though she had other options. But the truth was, she had imagined a very different kind of evening. She, Matt and his boyfriend had done the whole movies and chill routine many times, but it was easier with them, and more raucous. People stopped in at odd hours, bringing more drinks, more weed, and once in a while, even some harder stuff. And it would be fun and diverting, and Harper wouldn’t think, or even feel much of anything. The music would be loud, the television would be turned up to compete with the music and everyone would be practically shouting to be heard above it all. But this time, Matt had toned things down for his sister who was younger, and went to an artsy college. The French movie was her idea.
She looked over her shoulder. Matt was talking to her, and she’d missed whatever it was he said. “Huh?”
“The door. Didn’t you hear it?”
“Nuh uh. Is someone out there?”
Matt looked at her with wide eyes. “Yeah. I guess. And I didn’t invite anyone else, so …”
Harper sat upright. Alert suddenly.
Please, she thought. Please. Please. Please.
Standing, she shook her head a little to clear it. It was almost one in the morning. She hadn’t even given it a thought that he might …
Devin was standing there when she opened the door. He was in jeans and a long-sleeved black t-shirt. He looked lean and rangy. And as always, he looked good. So, so good.
And Harper was surprised that she had the urge to hug him. If she did, he would probably recoil in shock. As it was, he was looking at her as though his being there was as unexpected to him as it was to her.
“Hey,” he said. He didn’t smile.
The corners of her mouth twitched as she tried not to do so herself.
Devin was up before anyone else.
Harper was still asleep next to him. Her apartment, her neighborhood, were so quiet, it was almost unnerving. Even though he had much nicer digs himself now, he still remembered what it was like to live in Brownsville, where he was accustomed to noise all night, just outside his window. Baseheads and other junkies wandering the street, shouting expletives at each other, sometimes getting high in the tiny alleyway just behind the building. Sometimes, he heard people having transactional sex, the grunts and groans cursory, sad, and sometimes theatrical, because the pleasure was being faked.
Harper’s bedroom was like sleeping in a cocoon. Twice he’d woken up, reminding himself of where he was by looking around. She had posters on the walls, like a teenager might. Of Tupac, Jimi Hendrix, and OutKast. And framed LP covers, from eighties artists like MC Lyte and Chubb Rock; artists who had been talented enough, famous enough, but who were mismatched and counter-intuitive. Devin had a feeling that if he asked her, she would have very specific reasons for why she liked each one, and maybe even specific memories associated with them.
She was an interesting, and strange chick. When she talked about music, it was with a light in her eyes that made him want to smile, because it was something he almost never saw in people who weren’t themselves musicians. That light—the way she looked when she talked about music—was what made him want to sleep with her that first time. He noticed that she was pretty, probably even beautiful, but he noticed that as an afterthought. The exteriors of people were sometimes the least interesting parts of them. Inside was where all the action happened; and in some people, it was where the darkness lived. You couldn’t trust anything that was on the outside.
But still, Harper’s outside appealed to him. He reached beneath the sheets and touched her. She moaned in her sleep and opened her legs a little wider. Watching her face, Devin stroked her. Her eyelids fluttered as she came awake, and finally her hazel eyes were visible, clouded over and unfocused. He kept his gaze fixed on them, moving his fingers in slow and then faster circles, feeling as she grew moist, then slippery, then sopping wet. Harper’s lips parted and she moaned, her hips lifting off the bed.
“Devin,” she said. She bit into her lower lip, and all the while, her eyes remained open, and she stared right into his. “Devin,” she said again.
He had the sudden and surprising urge to kiss her mouth. He still wasn’t used to kissing on the mouth when he was fucking. He had kissed Kay, when they had that kind of relationship, a long time ago, but no one since, except now, Harper. But with Kay it was because he had never just fucked her. What they had done was about love, and after her, he had loved no one else. Kissing was too intimate to do with just anyone.
He had been mindlessly stimulating Harper while his mind drifted, so Devin was almost startled when she lifted her hips even higher off the bed, and emitted a low, deep cry as she came. Then she was limp again, still looking at him, her eyes lazy and half-shut. She smiled.
“Good morning,” she said.
One corner of Devin’s mouth lifted at the unexpectedness of the greeting, at the irrelevance of it. Just as their greeting at her front door the evening before had been irrelevant. In the things they didn’t say, sometimes it felt as though he and Harper actually said a great deal.
“Did you find an apartment?”
Harper was sitting opposite him in the diner down the block from her house. It was a faux-diner, really. Decorated to look old-fashioned, but in reality, brand spanking new. A breakfast of two eggs, home-fries and bacon cost fifteen dollars. Devin shook his head in disbelief and put down the menu.
He looked up at Harper. “No, I mean, yes, I found one.”
“Where is it?”
“Couple stops from here. Near the bridge.”
Harper looked surprised. “Oh. Wow. Cool.”
She was wondering, as Makayla had, how he could afford it. But unlike Makayla, Harper wouldn’t ask.
The waitress showed up and Devin ordered the expensive two-egg breakfast, after Harper had ordered her own. And once their coffees were refreshed, their server left them alone again. The only other people in the diner were young families, couples with kids, cajoling them through waffles and pancakes, trying to keep their little hands away from the syrup.
“You want to come see it?” Devin asked, on a whim.
“You have the keys and everything already?” Harper asked. “You signed a lease?”
He nodded, and shrugged. “I’m not picky.”
Harper laughed. “I know. I’ve seen the place you have now, remember? Are you going to be able to get out of that lease?”
“Lease?” Devin laughed. “That place is barely habitable. They’re lucky I don’t report them for all the code violations.”
“I do want to come see it,” Harper said. She moved the salt and pepper shakers back and forth, like someone playing a game of chess and contemplating her next move. “But I have to … I’ve got someplace to be today.”
Devin leaned back, studying her. This was the first time in ages he could remember seeing her outside of his apartment in the cold light of day. Her eyes looked more amber than hazel. Her lips were pink. It was like she was suddenly in technicolor.
“What?” she asked.
He had been staring, and it embarrassed her.
“I was just wondering what it is you’re doing today that makes you not want to come see my new crib,” he lied.
“I do want to see it. This is just … it’s something I can’t get out of. Again.”
“So you’ve gotten out of it in the past?”
“Many times. But my chits have all been used up.” She shrugged.
“What is it?” he asked. “This thing you’ve gotten out of many times before.”
“I’d rather not say.”
Devin didn’t press. Because if it were him, he would not want to be pressed.
“But maybe after?” Harper asked.
Devin shrugged. “Maybe,” he said.
COMING SUMMER 2018