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Not In My Hands
September 18, 2002

     I walked down the stairs shaking my head. My arms and head were struggling to get through the hooded sweatshirt I decided to throw on. Mike had just called and woken me up to ask if I wanted to hang out with him and Rachel. Normally I wouldíve jumped at the idea of seeing Rachel, but ever since that night when she pounced on top of Mike and wrapped her legs around his waist in that playful way of hers, I decided she wasnít worth my valuable time or effort. So Iíd take my valuable time getting ready. When I got into the kitchen I grabbed the ice-cold bottle of Jack Danielís from the freezer. "Some days are weirder than others," I thought and took down two shots; a wholesome breakfast for those days when you just want to get the hell out of your house in a hurry.

     I didnít really want to get the hell out of my house in a hurry, I just had nothing better to do. When I got to Mikeís I spotted his Mother standing out front with a hose in her hand, watering the forest that shielded the front of the house from the street. I never really liked Mrs. Jenson. First of all, she owned more cats than she did socks, and second, I couldnít figure out why on one occasion three years ago she called my mother and told her that I smoked "pots." Pots? Maybe I just didnít understand her. My Mother surely did though and wouldnít stop nagging to me about it for days on end.

     After asking the cat lady if Mike was home, I walked in. Through the front door, through the kitchen, through the hallway that led to the staircase then up the staircase, stopping only once to wipe my shoes on the floor mat. When I reached the top step, I could see Mike in his room wailing away on his light blue electric fender playing more notes a second than I could possibly count. He was sitting on his bed wearing his usual long, baggy black pants and faded brown tee shirt that matched the brown of his hair. "Yo whatís up man?" I said as we slapped each other five.

     "How you doiní man?"

     "Not bad," I said as I shrugged my shoulders. "You wanna go get Rachel?"

     "Yeah sure," he said in a low mumble as he continued to finger away at the neck of his guitar. After running through some final scales, Mike packed up his guitar and we left the house.

     We walked outside to my car and said goodbye to Mrs. Jenson who was still tending to her forest. I almost burst into laughter as we walked by but I contained myself just in time. Man, that woman was so stupid.

     The trip to Rachelís was only a fifteen minute drive from Mikeís, just enough time to smoke the marijuana and cocaine blunt I had rolled before leaving the house. As I took it out of the glove compartment, my Motherís words rang through my head like a broken church bell. "I want you to promise me that youíre going to stop smoking." I didnít need her guilt trips raining down on my parade so when she burst into my room one early Sunday morning and said that, I told her to go away and let me sleep. Ever since, Iíve just been smoking more, drinking more and doing more drugs in a furious attempt to run as far away from my Motherís care as possible. Iíd show her.

     I sparked the blunt and drove off.

     "So whatís the deal man, are you going to go after Rachel or what? ĎCause if you donít, then Iím going to." Mike cracked a smile with an air of confidence as he took a drag from his Camel Turkish Gold.

     I had wanted to. I really had. I told Mike only a week earlier that I had a thing for Rachel and was going to ask her out. That was before she threw herself on top of Mike that one night. And it didnít stop there. Nearly every time my friends and I were out together and she was with us, sheíd always sit next to Mike, gazing into his eyes as he spoke. She acted as if he was the best thing that had ever happened to her. Like a damn eight year old. Iíd sit back watching the spectacle unfold from the sidelines waiting for the next shot of jealousy to inject itself into my veins, run through my body, past the open gate of my rib cage and into my heart. It was quite a rush. And no matter how much I wanted to spend time with her alone, I had to let go of the crumbling fantasy and face the painful truth of the matter. She wanted Mike, not me.

     But I still wanted her. She could be my princess and we could dance on the clouds in the sky forever. "Well," I began in a low bass-like tone, "Iíve been thinking. You should probably go after Rachel instead. She obviously likes you more and I know you like her a lot also. I mean, she came up to you at that rave after all. It only makes sense, just go for her man." I nearly coughed up my lung after finishing that thought.

     "Nice hit. You sure about this though?"

     "Yeah just go for it." I couldnít believe I had just said that, but I did, and felt proud of myself.

     "Alright, cool. Yeah the last time we were together--when you were driving her home to Brooklyn--I had my arms around her the entire time from the back seat." Mike then bent over and picked up the still cold bottle of Jack Danielís sitting on the floor in front of him. "You mind if I take a shot?"

     "Thatís what itís here for dude."

     "Hell yeah man."

     Gusts of wind careened through the open windows of the car as we zipped down the B.Q.E. at speeds my Wranglerís digital speedometer didnít even reach. With the music blasting, the noontime sun overhead, and a strong euphoric sensation coming over me, I figured having to see both Mike and Rachel together wouldnít be so bad.

     We were only a few blocks away from Rachelís when Mikeís cell phone rang. I took my right hand off the wheel and paused the eardrum-shattering music. Suddenly it felt like time had come to a screeching halt and our fates were dependant on this one phone call. "Hello? Hey, whatís up? Yeah weíre right near your house, weíll see you in like two minutes." He slipped the phone back into his front pocket.

     "Rachel?" I asked to make sure.

     "Yup."

     Before I even pulled into her driveway, Rachel started towards the car with that same gracious smile she always wore. No makeup. She had on a small black tank top that slightly exposed her flat stomach, beige jeans and brown boots. Her seemingly silky smooth shoulder-length auburn hair tossed in the wind as she walked. She opened the backdoor of the jeep, glanced in and without a momentís hesitation said "Itís so good to see you guys!" then gave both Mike and I a hug. Mike had gotten out of the car and moved to the backseat, making me somewhat of a chauffeur. Now I was starting to question why I had even agreed to go along on this outing.

     "How you doiní?" Mike and I asked almost simultaneously.

     "Iím doing awesome."

     "Hey, so uh, where do you guys want to go?" I asked after realizing that we had no definite course of action.

     "Oh yeah, I was going to ask. Do you guys want to go out to Montauk Point? Iíve never been there and it seems like a cool place to visit just for the hell of it." Montauk Point was only a three hour drive from where we were, not bad for when you want to go somewhere just for the hell of it.

     "Alright," I said, "that sounds cool." I really didnít have any better ideas.

     Like a machine that automatically knew what it had to do next, I shifted the car into reverse, backed out of the driveway and then headed back towards the B.Q.E. I checked my fuel gage and realized that Iíd need to get gas soon. The indicator was already on the red line.

     "So how you guys been?" asked Rachel. She made it seem as if she was also asking me.

     "Not bad," I said. Mike mumbled something, but I wasnít paying attention. Instead, I was checking my rearview mirror to steal a glance at Rachel. But of course, my timing was off, or maybe it was right on target because I saw Rachel petting Mikeís head and brushing his hair with her fingers as though he were a puppy. What was this world coming to? I sighed and diverted my attention back onto the road.

     "So Rachel, do you know of anything to do out in Montauk?" I snorted.

     "Well we can check out the light tower and the sound, I heard itís a pretty place. My friend went there with her boyfriend and said it had a lot of nice views." Great. So now I was the poor soul going out of my way to take Rachel and her "boyfriend" to see some "nice views." I checked my rearview again and this time noticed Mikeís arm around Rachel. Three seconds later, they were necking. This was the kind of crap I didnít need to see.

     As we passed exit 16, the lights on my dashboard gradually started to dim. I had totally forgotten to get gas and now we had completely run dry. I carefully veered over to the side of the road as my car finally gave out its last breath, Ďchug, chug,í and then nothing. Mike and Rachel were silent as I sat thinking for a brief moment. Once again, no matter how scrupulously I went about my life, running around in circles trying to make sure everything worked out well and everybody was content, I would never be in total control; things would never run as I would like them to. It was the same sob story breeding the same pessimistic thoughts that always suffocated me. I slowly laid my head onto the leather-padded steering wheel, sighed and in a low voice said, "letís go get some gas." Before I got out of the car, I took down about a shotís worth of Jack Danielís.

     We got out of the car and started walking towards the nearest gas station. I made sure I was ahead of Mike and Rachel for obvious reasons, but also because the sidewalk wasnít wide enough for the three of us. As we marched on, I looked around and took note of the cloudless sky above and the tall grass to my left that swayed with the coming breeze. I then looked over at the road where people drove past us in their cars, not even realizing we existed, as though we were just ants, or perhaps mutants from another galaxy. I could hear clicking sounds coming from behind me as though someone were chewing gum loudly followed by the sound of Rachel giggling and Mike whispering something. I laughed and shook my head in disbelief.

     "Are you ok?" asked Mike as though he knew exactly what I had been thinking.

     "Yeah, Iím fine," I replied with a calm apprehension.

     We arrived at the gas station only five minutes later. I explained to the attendant that our car had run out of gas about a mile down the road and that we would need two gallons of regular octane fuel to start the old hog up again and get back to the station for a full refueling. After paying, I walked back towards Mike and Rachel, carrying a container of gas in each hand. The weight of the containers made my arms feel like supple tree branches and my legs like rigid tree trunks as I walked. ďYou ready to go?Ē I asked Mike and Rachel who were talking to each other next to one of the fuel pumps. They didnít answer, just nodded their heads.

     At that point I just wanted to go home. Forget about Montauk, forget about Mike and Rachel, just go home, delve into lines of freshly cut angel eyes and pass out on my bed. I sighed and looked up at the sky for some sort of salvation, some sort of solace. Nothing. And what did I expect anyway? A hand to reach down from the clouds and lift me up into heaven? That sort of stuff only happened in the movies.

     On our walk back to the car, I kept my eyes glued to the cloudless day sky as Mike and Rachel chatted like playful cats. When we finally got back to my jeep, I placed the two jugs of gas on the ground and opened the door. Just before I got in, Rachel walked over to me and rubbed up against my arm. The warmth of her body against mine startled me but I kept my composure, waiting for her to complete whatever it was that she had intended to do. She just smiled at me, looked me in the eyes then said, "you have to have some faith." I laughed and got into the car. Salvation? Yeah right.