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Beloved dreams about a wedding; Spearman remembers a birthday.

Within and Without

part 6 of Common People


Beloved dreams about the wedding she will never have.

At the wedding, she is thin and hungry, dressed in a sleek, dull white sheath and the heels that she never wears. The room is too large for her family, and empty. The carpet is ornate but old. The walls are covered with curtains that hide the chipped, bare brick beneath. Of the tables, clustered together in a corner like the lonely, half of the seats are empty. Beloved sent out the invites, checked and crosschecked the names, but for some reason everyone has assumed their extended families, wives and children, were not welcome.

This is her fault, for not trying harder.

Her mother could not find a photographer. No one sits at the bridal table. Beloved's friends are not by her side.

Beloved moves from table to table, accepting congratulations on Spearman's behalf. He couldn't make it, she understands, just like her brother couldn't make it, her sister couldn't make it, her dead father can't. Her cousin, the one who beat his head against a wall as a child until he knocked out his conscience, gestures at the empty chairs behind Beloved's back. There are so many empty chairs. Snide and loud, he wants to know why he didn't bring his wife and kids for the free feed. His mother, Beloved's aunt, pulls her lips into a thin line, a purse that issues no coin.

Only Beloved's grandmother sits at the bridal table, food spilling over her spangled blouse, eating as though starved. This wedding cost her a lot of money. She will make it worthwhile.

Beloved takes the empty seat at her cousin's side, where his wife should have sat. She asks if he's enjoying himself at her wedding. He says the food is good. This is true. Unlike every other wedding Beloved has been to, and there have been many, each bigger than the last, the food here is amazing. It is the best food anyone has ever eaten in their life. They will remember the food forever.


Spearman dreams his wedding is exactly like his 21st.

He has his 21st in his first home. His mother promised his brothers wouldn't come, but they turn up at ten to ten. Spearman's mother says Spearman should be grateful his family cares.

Spearman's friends retreat to the backyard. Spearman keeps busy making sure everyone has a drink. He hasn't seen his girlfriend around, but he's drunk, it's his birthday, and he wants her. She's his first real girlfriend. Spearman goes inside for more drinks. Spearman discovers his girlfriend is here, being talked at by Spearman's brother Noble. Noble, long hair and black chains, fills the room; Spearman's girlfriend has only the corner.

'Are you ok?' Spearman asks her.

'Yes.'

Spearman knows his brothers, but he also knows he should be trusting her.

Later, on another round for everyone else: Spearman's girlfriend fixes her hair while Noble holds her drink. Later again, another round: Noble has Spearman's girlfriend in his lap, laughing. Spearman's other brother, Mars, watches with interest. Too late, another round: alone, Spearman's father smokes out the lounge.

'Your girlfriend's a slut,' Spearman's father says, and sneers when Spearman's mother shushes him.

Spearman goes into his bedroom, where Mars is fucking Spearman's girlfriend like a dog, and Noble, naked, pulls on his trousers.

'Youngest gets the slops,' Noble tells Spearman.

'Are you ok?' Spearman asks his girlfriend. He wants to cry. He trusted her to distrust his brothers. Why did he do that?

'No.' Except she's not crying. 'No.'

Spearman doesn't know how to tell his brothers to stop, so he says, 'Stop it.'

'Told you we should've let him go first. Now he's whining.'

'Get out of my house.'

Everything he does is theirs to destroy. Noble is the one who shoves Spearman through a full-height window. Spearman bought this house for those full-height windows, which made squat ceilings look high, and brought trees into tiny rooms. The glass shatters as Spearman falls, ripping his back bloody. Spearman wakes up in the cold, dirt ground in his hair, with a scar at his hip that stays thick as three fingers; he never gets the gap stitched closed.

Spearman dreams his wedding ends the same way his 21st did, his mother doing the dishes, his father calling him a loser.

February 2010


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