Three years later after the first of November, Abel Erikson sighed wearily folding his arms across his chest in front of the living room window of a tall stucco house and red tile roof at the top of Pemberton steps in San Francisco. The fog covering the white city below the hill on Twin Peaks always depressed him. Particularly this day it got to him along with anxiety over the boy he'd brought to San Francisco from Charleston. He imagined the boy was in the Castro in a bar drinking out of loneliness with other men. He rolled his eyes at the thought of other men and their hands all over him. Even if the boy disapproved, he never said no. He hated that, was angry at the boy’s stupidity and swung around.
Figurative/abstract artwork, Two Firebirds Mating, that the boy had done hung above the sideboard. Abel especially cherished this painting with its wads of red primitive figures and black slanted eyes twisting into one whirling mystical haze that inspired Abel to smile and appreciate the boy he discovered and owned with as much devotion as the first time they made love. He remembered how he glowed after knowing him and accepted he was the one. These sudden long absences away from him were upsetting when he’d given him so much, given him his heart.
He gawked at the liquor on the sideboard. Two decanters, one full of gin, the other brandy. No one around. He swallowed a dry lump in his throat. No one would ever know. He hurried across the room to the sideboard. There, he wiped his brow and readied gin and vermouth into a shaker. He drained it carefully over crushed ice and filled a glass to the rim. After adding two olives pushed on a toothpick floating at the top, he lifted the martini to his mouth and shivered in silent horror. His right cheek twitched violently causing one eye to blink as he remembered once upon a time when could drink until he was literally blue in the face. There were no hangovers then, no problems. Now, he went to therapy and made special appearances at AA meetings upon his therapist's suggestion. He hated the meetings, having to sit there in that melancholy room, half listening to their stories, thinking he wasn't as far gone as those people. Drinking out of control and waking up in a gutter was not something he had in common with any of them.
He looked dubiously up at the ceiling and closed his eyes admitting he was powerless over alcohol-that his life had become unmanageable. The second step he whispered, then hesitated at mid-sentence slowly turning around and opening his eye to see her in the frame of the door gasping for air with snow-white hair erect like an electric bush, a beige gown clinging unnaturally making her look naked. Her bony white fingers reached for the switch like bird claws shutting out the light.
"Farchrisake! Turn that light back on. Turn it on, now!”
"Ahab," the woman cried clicking the switch and, squinting, saw it was not Ahab. She backed up.
"That’s right, it is I. Abel. The other one! You so ardently hate.”
"I don't hate you so much.”
"Why I’m flattered.” Abel smiled grimly pouring the martini he’d just made down the drain. “Now be a good girl, go back to your room.”
“How dare you speak to me in that manner. I’m your mother.”
“Yes, let’s not forget your maternal devotion that’s neither here nor there. Get the hell out.”
“I’ll have you know I am not some simpleminded crone.”
“I never said you were a simpleminded crone, but your description is accurate.”
“I get an allowance every month, young fellow. Ahab deposits it in the bank to take care of this house-"
"Ahab made those deposits of your measly pennies alright, right into his own personal account! Right down to your last nickel.”
"Ahab wouldn't have.”
“He would have allowed this house foreclose from right under your nose if I had not-"
"Why must you make up filthy lies?"
"I just can't get it.” Abel threw his hands up in the air helplessly. "After all the miserable years you've spent with Ahab, you insist defending him against me when it was Ahab who defrauded you."
"I'll get Ahab. He'll speak the truth."
”You'll have to go all the way to 6th Street to find him .”
“6th Street? I don’t understand.”
“Of course not. Let me remind you, he’s been evicted
"Yes, evicted as in discarded, thrown out."
"But how? Why?"
"Your precious baby boy is living in an SRO on 6th Street. He’s fallen into absolute poverty and shall surely perish."
The thought of Ahab being evicted had never actually occurred to her. Poverty--yes, but eviction--no. Finally some memory of Ahab’s eviction was no longer so remote, she remembered it along with the fighting, the screaming and the police. Yet, she had no memory of 6th Street or this SRO, but the thought of them didn’t sound exactly like Park Avenue. She got a quiver in the pit of her stomach worrying over Ahab’s situation until she started to shake. "Ahab can't be gone," she snapped. "He simply can't be. Why would you evict him? Your own brother? It was because of her, wasn’t it? Her! That woman?"
"Why mother you are that woman,” Abel said calmly.
She started to leave, then stopped. Her hands were no longer shaking, the quiver in her stomach dissipated and she accepted they were still a cold family of stone, heartless and unforgiving or each other’s faults. That had not changed. "I don't hate you so much," she said looking down the hall into empty space past the spiral stairs leading up to the master bedroom.
"Get out or shall I remove you personally? Dearest mother, you wouldn't prefer that..."
"All right,” she said with sudden vivacity. "I am leaving...now." She sucked-in her teeth and made her way down the hall feeling her hands along the wall like a blind woman and, entering her bedroom, slammed the door behind her.
"Wretched bitch!" Abel said gritting his teeth, then suddenly froze like a statue and a frivolous look on his face. He grinned feeling the thing in his boxer short pulsating, the thing ready to explode. Effortlessly he fondled it, biting his bottom lip until he tasted blood. He burst into laughter, a savage reverberating echo from a wet unexpected climax. Tears welled in his eyes as he hugged himself in his arms like a lover.
The front door banged open downstairs. Footsteps pounded, rushing up. Abel cleaned himself up quickly, squirted a sip of club soda into a glass and hurried over to the sofa.
"Darling, I’m home," came the boy's breathless voice from in the doorway.
His boy had come safely home and was desirable in a zippered leather jacket accented over a grey long turtleneck with olive pants. He wouldn't complain or question him about his day away from him. Besides, he had argued long enough with Zelta, his scraggly mother, about those goddamn cats. That had exhausted him. "Well, don't just stand there,” he said wiping his eyes. "Come on in my boy."