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Though he sat on the couch, t.v. playing a rerun of home improvement shows, he wasn’t there.
Instead Cooper saw the dishes shattering, silverware becoming confetti for a party at war. He heard the sonic boom of a door slamming, the clatter of heeled feet rushing down the stairs. All this and he stood in the doorway lost and detached. The young man in the room shot from wall to wall, hands destroying a lifetime of memories. Home. Those hands shredded it. Home. They tried to tear it down brick by brick. The word was flashing, branding his mind with red alerts. HOME. Yet he did nothing, arms motionless as the dark haired boy took it away; just as motionless as their mother on the stairs. She stood with her hands on the banister, mouth agape. The boy’s mouth was open too, screaming. Cooper wondered if his mouth was open… no, it wasn’t but the thought flitted away fast enough he just didn’t care.
“Sam? Honey- What are you doing?! Stop, PLEASE STOP!” The young man froze; the wiry guts of the microwave slipping from his hands. He dropped to his knees, bloodied fingers covering his face as he wept with grief. The mother ran forward, hugging him, crying her own tears, but none for the destruction of their home.
Sam. Cooper thought absently as he watched, always Sam. He finally stepped from the doorway, looking at the pieces of things Sam had so carelessly destroyed. Once finished looking he skirted around him and their mother going quickly up the steps to his room. Hours later he heard their mother go to bed, and Sam went to the study, probably looking through Carter’s desk, at the pictures and eventually building himself up to another fit of rage, costing more than the last. Cooper slipped out of his room, and quietly padding downstairs he took in the carnage, grabbed the broom and began cleaning up Sam’s mess.
With three trash bags full, Cooper turned to grab a fourth when he noticed Sam on the bottom step with his riding gear on: the leather coat, jeans, and scuffed boots. “Sam?” Cooper’s voice came plaintive. The clock read two fifteen. “You know you can’t go out-right? It’s past curfew.” Sam didn’t care though, he never did. The bike had been impounded at least four times in the last year, thanks to him going out late. When that happened he would call home, begging their mother to come get him.
Looking at him, Cooper realized it would be for good. He asked where Sam planned to go, where he would live. The only response was a shrug, and Sam walked past, then out the door. In the quiet, Cooper’s detachment suddenly seemed wrong, and with a cry he ran after Sam. He screamed for him to wait but the taillights were already at the end of the street. Then it was gone. Just like their dad, Carter, Cooper thought bitterly. Carter decided when the boys were thirteen he didn’t want to be their father anymore. Sam took it hard, getting mixed with the wrong crowd, but Cooper took it harder. He didn’t rebel, cuss or fight. Cooper tried to be perfect, robotically perfect. Now, standing in the driveway, anyone would see the young man; hair nicely combed, clothes unwrinkled. Anyone would see his soaked cheeks and the slumped posture. However no one would see the bike helmet sitting next to the front door, at least not for days.
The news reported a mangled Harley found next to a field, nearly a week later. An empty casket was buried beneath a stone that read; Samuel Donovan Steinbeck, beloved son and twin. The date told the curious he was only twenty.
‘Not that many would be curious’, the thought came unbidden, but it was truth. Just like his brother Cooper knew there would be few to visit his grave either. The realization woke him up enough to lift the glass in his hand, but the last sip of water had long since disappeared between his lips. He closed his eyes briefly, and refilled the glass. Looking at the clear liquid, a reflection stared at him. The dark hair had become peppered with grey, and scruff covered his jaw. Cooper flopped back against the couch cushion. This was not his life, but the one Sam might have lived; he thought tiredly.
A word flashed through his mind. Escape. The glass had been emptied and refilled again. Escape. He brought it to his lips. Escape. The water burned, lighting the numbness on fire. Escape. Cooper slumped forward and the glass clinked to the floor. Esscccaaaapppee. The word sighed through his thoughts..echoing, always echoing of home. Now unconscious, Cooper’s brain stilled. He had lost, again. One day he would win, and by winning he would be free. Water would no longer have to burn to quench his thirst. The water that came from a glass bottle, not water at all. One day he would sleep without the poison, and Sam would be at rest. Tonight though Sam’s ghost had won, and in his dreams he smoothed his twin’s hair, spoke of home, their parents, and the ease of giving in to the poison. In dreams it was Sam’s ghost that begged Cooper to stay, in dreams it would always be Cooper that left, running to his own world.
When morning came Cooper still lay on the floor in front of the couch; the discarded glass beside him accusing. Groaning he got to his feet, and on the calendar he made an x through February 23, ruining a patch of clear days that went back exactly a month, the last 23. The glass and the bottle were carried to the small kitchen, and by the phone he saw a number- it had been there since just before he lost his job, a friend had given it to him. Cooper picked up the phone.
The building he pulled in front of was nondescript, but he had to pick up his courage before entering. Inside, he stood before the designated door, and upon opening it bright colors clashed against the calm mood of the hallway. In the room strangers stared at him curiously, one, and older man maybe sixty, slid a chair forward with his shoe. As Cooper took the seat, the door closed, on it read a sign.
A.A., Starting a new life.