[Continuing story of two brothers, Merrill (here) and James.]
That party where I first met Jellie, that’s when I learned I gotta be careful around her. She can be mean, and she can dig under the skin just for fun. That night before James had shown up, she’d been sitting next to me, doing a number on me. Close, too close, jeez, she was at the time my brother’s girlfriend type person. More than a convenient fuck, I’d never ever say that but I’d watched my older brother long enough to see him make his moves, then move on. Jellie’d gotten under his skin too and that’s why he left Oakland, in my opinion.
But it was me sitting next to the fire next to Jellie with her hair glowing in the fire. That’s what I remember, her hair on fire, except it wasn’t really on fire. The fire glowed between each strand. I’d worried that somebody had slipped something into my mineral water because I was feeling strange. Hallucinating on Jellie’s hair and her voice sounding like little bells, the kind they play in church, And how the hell do I know that?
I don’t. But she started joking around, touching me, and saying why don’t I have a girlfriend. Pick any girl here. The room was no way big enough to be saying such shit. And i was turning red from the fire and her heat and then she threw that on it. Gas on the fire, brittle twigs. That was me, particularly then. Nothing but brittle sticks. She kept it up and up and everyone was looking at us. They were looking most at her, as lots of the people knew I was a tinder box. I didn’t know them exactly, but everyone had heard about James’ brother who almost died. Who was such a fuck up that he couldn’t even survive being a junkie. That was me and the room knew it.
She kept it up, laughing, and poking at me. She went for my head and I grabbed her wrist. I held it tight because I’m strong as a bull when I’m mad. I could see the skin around where I held her going white. Now she’s squirming and just starting to yell at me. But I don’t let go. I want to break her skinny arm. I want to hurt her. The room starts calling my name and I come to. We all laugh and she moves away and then the whole surprise-to-James gets organized, without me having broken Jellie’s arm.
So here we are in the middle of the desert with the sun going down, almost lost, surely not found, and I’m getting mad at her. She’d been careless coming out from Oakland, she’d been careless expecting James to take her to the Indian. She’d been careless taking off in the truck without thinking how to get back to James. She’d been especially careless coming to me.
Now it’s on me to keep calm and not want to hurt her again.