Friday, April 16, 2021

Watching by Natasha Weber

 Jude was always missing something.

What he was missing, he couldn’t put his finger on, because his mind was always preoccupied with other things. Currently, it was preoccupied with determining the best way to remove a TV from the woman’s house he was staying at.

For as long as he could remember, Jude had a compulsive need to steal things.

He recalled the jolt of electricity that would run up his spine when he stole a book from the library in grade school, stole a ten-dollar-bill from his mother, or stole his friends’ girlfriends in high school.

There’s nothing quite like it, other than maybe a good smoke. Jude thought to himself as he unplugged the TV from the outlet in a sweaty fervor. Once it was wireless, he lifted it and carried it across the carpeted living room floor.

When he arrived at the front door, he set the TV down and pushed the door open gently, holding the handle the whole time and releasing his grip slowly to prevent any noise. He continued hauling the TV out to his car under the black shade of night, and then put it down on the sidewalk. Jude jiggled his keys in the car lock, eventually hearing the satisfying, click, of it unlocking. He swung the door open and plopped the TV in the backseat. Then, he clambered into the driver’s seat and started the car. He adjusted his rear-view mirror, admiring the golden watch he  had stolen from the same woman he had taken the TV from.

Becky? Andrea? He tried to remember her name, but it wouldn’t come to him.

He drove to a seedy motel with even seedier women hanging around outside. He   was so used to staying at sleazy places that he hardly noticed the soda cans, beer bottles, and styrofoam boxes littering the parking lot as he walked across it. He checked in at the front desk and took the apartment key eagerly. Jude dashed up       to  the second floor of the complex—butterflies still dancing in his stomach at the  fact that he had gotten away with stealing—and opened the door to his room, throwing himself on his bed.

He fell asleep quickly.

When he awoke, he headed to the bathroom. He saw himself in the mirror and shivered. He was still handsome, but if he couldn’t remain handsome, he wasn’t sure how he could keep up his lifestyle.

His best features were still his piercing blue eyes, despite the fact they were tangled    in a web of crow’s feet and dark shadows. His blond hair still had a nice sheen to it, despite the many times he had dyed it to appeal to  the  various  types  of  people willing to pay for him.

Could stand to gain more weight so I don’t look homeless. He thought to himself as he climbed into the shower.

When he stepped back out of the shower, he heard his phone ringing. He looked at the caller ID and rolled his eyes.

His sister had burned the bridge with him dozens of times, and yet she still checked in on him like she was his mother. He did not want to answer, but he knew he would.

He grabbed a smoke from his pocket, lighting it with one hand while answering the

phone with the other. “Hey.” Jude said simply.

“Jude, I just got a call from a woman named Marina saying that you stole her TV.

What the hell have you gotten yourself into this time?” His sister exclaimed. Marina. That was her name. He thought to himself. “I don’t know any Marinas. What are you talking about?”

There was a long pause, and then his sister said, “Jude. I’m so sick of this. Why   can’t you get a job—get a girlfriend, get a safe place to live? I’ll tell you what, I’m willing to send you back to rehab one more time if…”

Jude listened to the rehab argument for what felt like the tenth time with his

eyebrows knit in irritation.

He had been in-and-out of rehabs his whole life. He didn’t know why his sister thought they would be effective for him now when they never had been before. Sure, he was fine when he was in rehab, but when he was out of it, he went straight back to raising hell.

“Angelica, you don’t have to worry about me. I’m doing fine. Just worry about your kids, your husband, and your perfect life, Princess.” Jude told her as he exhaled a long stream of smoke.

There was another long pause, followed by the sound of his sister weeping. Angelica… I can’t believe her name is Angelica. Was all he could think to himself. Mom and Dad’s perfect little angel. Straight As, straight as an arrow. “Just give the TV back, Jude. She said she wouldn’t press charges.” Angelica informed him.

“How did she get your number, anyway?” Jude asked.

“She says it was on a piece of paper that fell out of your pocket.” She replied.

“Just because she says she won’t press charges, doesn’t mean she won’t. I haven’t got any money to pay this woman.” Jude said, standing up and stretching his arms and legs.

“I’ll pay her if it comes to that.” Angelica said without hesitation.

Jude couldn’t help but smile, sniffing out laughter through his nostrils.

Angelica had always been horribly enabling. She pitied him like most people did-- pitied him for the wicked hand that life had dealt him.

He felt the cold hand of guilt squeezing his stomach, making him feel ill for taking

advantage of his sweet sister. “Well… I’ll find a way to pay for it if it comes to it. Thanks anyway, Angie. Andrew was livid the last time you paid for my mistakes.” “It doesn’t matter. He’ll come around.” Angelica protested. “I won’t let you pay for it.”

Jude found his eyes becoming glassy. “Not all of us have your kind of luck, Princess. I really don’t want you calling me anymore. My bad luck will rub off on you.”

“Bad luck?” His sister was breathless. “I know that Peter dying wasn’t exactly good luck, but I think you’ve had a guardian angel watching over you your whole life.

You could have died when you overdosed, you could have died while living on the streets, you could have died when you had a  gun  to  your  head,  but  you  didn’t.” Jude tossed his cigarette on the carpet and stomped it out, then he leaned against    the window. He wondered why his sister thought she had the right to invoke his

twin’s name.

He didn’t realize how angry he was at her for using it until he saw that his hands were shaking. “Don’t talk about my brother.” Jude hung up on her and tossed his phone on the bed.

He looked out the window at the cars in the parking lot, eyes still glassy. He only said it because he knew it was that combination of words that would hurt her the most.

He had no idea why she thought he was lucky. He couldn’t hold down a stable job to save his life, he had been addicted to drugs his whole life, and his twin brother was shot in front of his eyes at age twelve.

But then…

He remembered the instances his sister had spoken of.

He remembered falling asleep on his back after taking an atrocious mixture of drugs, and then somehow being turned on his side to throw up.

He remembered being so hungry and thirsty while living on the streets that he  could barely move, and expected to be dead the next morning when he had fallen asleep. When he had woken up, there was a carton of fries and a glass of water beside him.

He recalled pressing a gun to his own head, and feeling a hand that was not there helping him to lower it.

Perhaps he had been lucky.

Jude returned the TV to  Marina, who decided not to press charges, and then called    up his sister, telling her that he would like  to  try  rehab  again  and  that  he  would like to stay the night at her house.

As he crawled into bed in the guest room, he realized that the thing he had been missing was his brother. He felt like he had been living a half-life since he lost     him.

He didn't know if rehab would help him; it hadn't so many times before. But he did know that he had to do everything he could to live a life rewarding enough for two people, as his second half was not there to live it with him.

It was a chilly night. He shivered in his sleep.

Hands that were mirrors of his own draped a second blanket over him.

© Natasha Weber

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