Notes: Character piece for Anthony. Title from "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," by T.S. Eliot.When you are thirteen, your sister yells at you from the edge of your hospital bed; the morphine dose translates her words into a babbling brook, rhythmic and nonsensical. Oh God, Anthony, you might have died, you didn’t have to say yes, you idiot. Her face is blotchily red, like your hands after helping your mother fix strawberry shortcake. You’d like some of that right now—you wonder if it’s possible to flavour an IV.It happens like this:Sam shows up at your doorstep in a crunch of gravel on a bike so new that you think your hand might just slip right off the glossy metal finish. Come on, let’s go. His grin is triumphant (king before the fall, you will think later, as your bones are knitting), and nothing has ever gone wrong before. Say yes when he suggests you both try that jump.Say yes to Sam then, and say yes seven months later, at three in the morning and you only fourteen for two and a half-hours, when Sam looks over at you from his sleeping bag and asks if he can kiss you. Your mouths are still sticky with cake icing and you have the impression that there shouldn’t be nearly so many teeth. After, Sam blushes hotly and rolls over on his other side, pretending to sleep, and you lie awake and say nothing.Say yes when Jenny asks if you like the viola; say nothing while she mercilessly haggles your parents into lessons outside of the simple ones the school orchestra has you started on. Say nothing a week later when you pick out your instrument, but run the tips of your fingers along the grain, brighter than the sheen of Sam’s bike, and give Jenny your thanks in the music that you make.Say nothing the first summer Julian and Jenny are both back from university, and get into such a howling row that even your father’s strident voice won’t calm them. Say nothing because you can see they don’t want to reconcile, and instead take Eliot to the cinema, buy him ice cream, and say yes the next day when Jenny asks you to help her move out.Say yes to a girl named Samantha, who asks you your number the first week of classes, who looks nothing like Sam, who has old taped episodes of Doctor Who that you remember watching as a child—you never hid behind the couch, though, you just closed your eyes. Say yes to a date and yes to a kiss and yes to sex on her bed with polka-dot sheets that you don’t notice beyond the first half-second after she pushes you down onto it. Say yes when she asks if you love her, because you don’t have a more accurate word to express your fondness for the little curls her hair makes as it dries, for the sounds she makes beneath your hands, for her good-natured mockery of your inability to understand the utter obsession of your culture with a man who travels in a broken time machine.Say nothing of consequence when she gently breaks up with you before summer holidays, just kiss her goodbye and promise to stay friends, and keep that promise because you really do want to understand about the blue police box.Say yes, with some surprise, when during your second year a young man corners you at one of Samantha’s parties—because she throws good parties, and you promised to stay friends—and asks if you would talk music with him. Say yes, with somewhat less surprise, when chords and lyrics and the language of songs take on another meaning entirely.Say yes two years later, when Michael has gone to Africa and given you goodbyes in the form of a kiss and bruises on your wrists from some really fantastic sex, and Katya and Coleen want to room with a boy they know won’t hit on them. You don’t remind them about Samantha because it doesn’t matter; you don’t hit on people in relationships anyway.Say yes when they ask you if you like Glastonbury. You don’t care one way or the other about Glastonbury, because the last six months have been this:It rains on the day of the funeral, not because it’s a funeral but because it’s January in England. Keep an arm around Jenny’s shoulders because Elliot won’t let anyone hold his hand, standing stoically next to Julian as they form a half-circle around the gravestone with two names chiselled into it. You’ve already said no to any ornamentation. They weren’t ostentatious people and you weren’t raised to be either.Say yes when they ask if you’ll be okay, because saying no wouldn’t change anything at all. Say yes when Jenny tells you to write, watch as all three of them drive away in opposite directions, and know that it’s possible you’ll never get them all together at once ever again.Take Michael’s hand and leave, and take the train back to London because you look at the rain-slicked roads and wonder what they thought in the last few seconds, and if they thought of you.You don’t say much of anything to anyone in Glastonbury, and they let you have your space. It’s a good town to be sad in, because it’s difficult to remain morose after a walk down cobblestone streets populated by hippies who run cosy little shops and bakeries with the best pastries you’ve ever eaten. And when that can’t cheer you, there’s a tower on a hill that appeals to your old sense of wonder, and you take your viola—you’re used to its weight now, no matter the terrain—and walk up the path ‘til your legs ache, however long that might take and whether or not you reach the top. There’s a wonderful view of the town from any height, and the tourists and hikers smile when they pass you, fingers tapping over the strings in familiar airs, whether you’re watching the town or gazing unseeing into the far distance.Catch sight of a flyer taped up next to the counter in your favourite café, and for the first time in a long time do something for yourself when you dial the number on it into your cell phone and ask for an audition.Play your music for the odd trio that meets you in the churchyard, because they met you out on the grass rather than a stuffy auditorium, and because one girl has purple hair, and the other bright red and a sardonic sense of humour, and because the other has blue eyes and blushes when he watches you play.Say yes, when they invite you to join, because it’s not an invitation, it’s him saying, he’s fantastic, and whether or not he intends the double entendre, you miss being around people who don’t pity you. Say yes because he blushes and yes because the red-haired girl has a Stradivarius and a sweet Irish accent, and yes because their purple-haired companion makes you laugh, and two people to flirt with and a fun-loving lesbian to mock you for it isn’t a bad proposition at all.You’re not sure how it changes. His body says yes, and hers doesn’t, so you let the gentle flirting with her turn to simple friendship—she doesn’t notice the difference—and turn your attention to him. He backs away but he still says yes in his eyes, his blush, his gestures, and you say nothing because this place, these people, are the best thing that’s happened to you in a long time, and you won’t risk changing that if he won’t, but you also make sure he can see that the option is there if he wants.You don’t say anything that matters, the night he comes back looking like sex and smelling like alcohol. But you’re not as smart as you think you are, because you’re worried; it’s a fault of yours, this worry over things you haven’t any say over. He reminds you of Sam right before the impact on dirt and the crunch of bone, and you kiss his forehead and want him to say yes, but you don’t ask, you run.Say yes, a month later, when it’s just the two of you alone, Can this work? You say yes because it worked with Michael and it worked with Samantha, and because you want it to work with him. Yes, you say, and kiss him, because he’s frightened and you miss having someone to share your bed and your life and your laughter, and because the music you make here is the best you’ve ever done.Yes, when he asks, and later, Yes, God, Richard, I—please, yes.Say yes knowing that he won’t keep you, yes knowing that this won’t be the easy give and take you had with Samantha or Michael. Yes, knowing that you already care for him more than you ever did for either of them, and that he’s likely to hurt you far more deeply and hate himself for doing so.Yes, because maybe he doesn’t realise that.Yes, because maybe he won’t.Yes, because maybe he’ll hurt you but no certainly will.Yes, because in the end you need someone, and he’s willing, and maybe, just maybe, you might end up actually getting this right.
Oh, that bit was a little odd. Basically, Sam got a new bike, they went riding, Sam suggested they jump something, and Anthony fell and broke things.