I want to live without seeing myself.
— Federico Garcia Lorca
By the time we finally arrived at his house, it was eleven-thirty at night. The lights were still on and the television was playing, the water running in the kitchen. Despite his sleepless house, Tweek was quiet as he opened the door and shut it behind me. I listened as he turned the locks and left before he was done so that I could greet his parents. His mom was in the kitchen of whom I saw first. "Hey, mamma."
Their kitchen was a refined space, all geometric shapes in their designated places. Every appliance fit together: the sides of the microwave parallel to the toaster, the roundness of the coffee machine similar to the spiral of their spinning spice rack. There were no magnets on the fridge or notes taped to the cupboards. The organization of the area was immaculate. A matching set of dishes was spaced evenly throughout one cupboard and cans were ordered alphabetically in another.
Mrs. Tweak turned around from her place at the sink and smiled with her eyes closed, an aloof quality to her expression and the drifting wave of her hand. She wandered closer and grabbed onto my fingers to pull me into the living room where Tweek's dad was sitting on the sofa. She'd left the water running.
"Richard, look." Tweek had definitely inherited her subtle voice. "Our son brought his boyfriend home again."
"Oh?" He appeared relaxed, having been patiently waiting for Tweek's return. His hands were clasped in his lap and he was reclined on the couch comfortably. When he turned his head to acknowledge me, I stepped forward and reached my hand out. "This is a nice surprise," he said, giving me a firm shake native to fathers.
Both he and his wife were soft-spoken although where he was collected with soft undertones of assertiveness, Mrs. Tweak was detached and almost air-headed. There was little she was going to be fazed by. Someone could've easily mistaken her for careless, but I think that she was just unconcerned by situations and her surroundings. Kind of like me.
"Sit down, sit down." As I did so, Mr. Tweak gestured toward the television. It was set to the home improvement channel. "I'm fine-tuning my decorative skills. It's imperative that I enhance my imagination. Creativity can become very dull in the edges, you see. My goal is to sharpen those edges into blades of inspiration. I've got to benefit my family business in any way that I can and interior design is a critical aspect of that."
Blades of inspiration, I sniggered to myself. Oh, Mr. Tweak, you're so funny. Coincidentally, Token absolutely loved this kind of stuff, the home improvement and interior design type of thing. I knew there had always been a reason why I would force myself to watch it with him. "My friend likes the guy who hosts the show about the next design star," I said.
And once I'd shared that with Tweek's dad, he said some guy's name which I was guessing was who I had mentioned, so I just nodded my head and let him say hilarious things about the guy.
Tweek poked his head out of the kitchen and sighed. "We're not boyfriends, mom." He blanched when he saw me on the couch with his dad. I smiled.
"You're not?" His mom was nearly soundless, seemingly preoccupied by something else as she questioned him. "What do you boys call yourselves nowadays then?"
The embarrassed blonde rolled his eyes. "Tweek and Craig," he grumbled, disappearing back into the kitchen.
"Ah," she said, laughing to herself.
He came back in holding a mug of coffee with both hands. "D-do you want anything to drink?" He asked, coming over to take a seat beside me, legs crisscrossed. I noticed the space he'd put between us and inwardly smirked as I declined his offer.
Just to mess with him, I shifted and spread my legs a little wider. Though we still weren't touching, our knees were now considerably close. Tweek's eyes darted down to take a terrified look at what I'd done.
I leaned back and took a curious look around the room to unnerve him further. There were neutral tones and nothing more. The only pieces of furniture were large and had an obvious use. The television, a dvd player, one sofa and recliner chair, a coffee table with coasters. Objects not necessarily needed were absent. Things like magazines, ottomans, or game consoles. Much like the kitchen, every object had been given a permanent spot and would stay there just as it always had.
It was a simple layout and the only decoration were numerous framed photographs of different kinds of coffee. I wasn't fond of the beverage but each image was an appetizing rendition of coffee topped with caramel drizzle, whipped cream mountains, froth, a sprinkle of cocoa powder. They were frappuccinos, cappuccinos, mocha lattes, hybrids that I had no name for, and swirls of cream made into designs that I recognized as latte art: rosettas and tulips, images like that.
During my once-over, I'd taken notice of Mrs. Tweak still standing on the outskirts of the room, her hands folded in front of her. She was staring at Tweek and me, her husband practically nonexistent even in the direct line of her sight. There was a disconnected smile on her face as though she honestly had no clue that her hawk eyes were visualizing her son on the far end of the couch, me on the other, and Mr. Tweak in between us.
Honestly a bit worried that she was possessed, I turned to check if Tweek was seeing the same thing. His expression in response to her babysitter-like treatment was livid. The way he was staring back at her, lip nearly curled into a snarl—it was glorious. He was genuinely offended, knuckles white around his mug. It must've been burning his fingers, tendrils of steam still rising from the dark brew inside. I was incredibly entertained.
When she tilted her head to the side and smiled wider, Tweek pressed his fingers against his temple and let out an irritated huff. "Is it okay if we go to my room?"
"Oh, I don't know about that, honey." The blonde's mouth twitched. "Why don't you stay downstairs and watch TV with your father? He loves spending time with you."
Actually, his dad didn't look like he gave a shit. Mr. Tweak was going to watch a house get refurbished with or without company. He was too preoccupied to spend time with anyone. He wasn't even aware of the conversation going on around him. Tweek's brows rose and I knew that we'd both made identical observations.
"No," he spat blatantly, answering her as well as correcting the fallacy of her excuse at the same time.
A twinge of fear nipped at my pulse. If I'd said that to my mom, she would've beaten me. And then my dad would've jumped in on the fun because he was an asshole. And while I was down, Ruby would have pulled her pants down and rubbed her butt all over my face. Nana and Papa would've been called. I would've been forced to kill myself before they arrived because they were the worst grandparents ever. They had sticks shoved up every orifice, not just their asses.
Getting up from the couch, Tweek grabbed my arm and hauled me to my feet. "We're going t-to my room," he said, stubbornly ignoring his mom and heading for the stairs. I was catching a whiff of childishness and rebellious teenager. Being sheltered your entire life could do that to a person, though. The blonde didn't believe he could object to his parents without throwing a fit. He thought he needed the attitude to execute his decision properly. Mom and dad would submit if he put enough power behind it.
Attitude often gave parents a reason to punish, though. This was their house and they liked to enforce complete jurisdiction over everyone inside of it. Punishment meant getting taught a lesson, and getting taught a lesson meant obedience, and that was what parents wanted for their children because all they ever did was care.
"Tweek." He stopped halfway up the carpeted staircase, the only sign that he'd heard his mom. "I think your friend should sleep on the couch tonight."
I wasn't "boyfriend" anymore. If I'd been an expressive person, I might've winced. A parent's greatest authority was when it reigned over a friend—the liability—someone who was almost always stuck in the middle, neutral territory and entirely helpless. They were also a child's most effective weakness.
But sometimes low blows like that didn't quite settle a dispute. Especially not with the way Tweek's fingers had tightened around my arm, digging into my skin.
Without turning around or raising his voice, the blonde said, "He's sleeping in my room." And that was it. He had me follow him the rest of the way up the stairs and into his personal space where he shut and locked the door.
He'd need a moment to compose himself, I knew. So I sat down on his bed and leaned back on my palms. His room was by far one of the most interesting I'd seen. It wasn't the contents that intrigued me, but the lack thereof. He had a desk, a bed, and a closet. His sheets were washed, layered, and ironed—strictly made. There was nothing on the walls. Any loose belongings were either stowed away inside one of his many stacked and labeled boxes or put into his filing cabinet.
On his desk were pencils and pens organized by type: yellow, mechanical, gel, ballpoint, sharpie. They were matched to size and the yellow pencils were sharped down to accommodate the length of the others. Once the descending or ascending—I wasn't sure which kind Tweek favored—order reached the sharpies, the colors he owned were ordered from cool to warm. An equal amount of space was put between each one and a piece of measuring tape was fused to the bottom edge of the desk to perfect that separation.
"You probably think I'm r-really immature," Tweek said, walking over to stand behind the chair fitted against his desk. I figured that somehow he'd exacted that as well, and watched him ruin his precise array of utensils only to begin reorganizing them again. Although his back was to me, I could tell that he was fighting hard to breathe evenly. Before I could say anything, he asked, "C-could you go into my bathroom and get me a Soma? It's in the m-medicine cabinet."
"What's Asoma?" I didn't move because I hadn't been told of this. Why hadn't anyone said anything?
"It's just Soma. I rarely take it," he explained. "I shouldn't even have it. K-Kenny gave it to me. It's just a muscle relaxer."
As I got up and headed to the bathroom attached to his bedroom, I heard him say, "It's on the third row. Third bottle."
It didn't occur to me that he still had the rest of his medication in his backpack downstairs. My brain just spaced and assumed that it was in his medicine cabinet and that's why there would be other bottles inside of it.
Third row, third bottle. I turned on the light and glanced around. There was no visible medicine cabinet, but I grabbed the edge of his spotless mirror and tugged on it; it opened.
The blonde had taken the term "medicine cabinet" far too literally. There were five rows and each was filled with an equal amount of yellow bottles with childproof tops. They were prescribed, labels around each one of their bodies. Names jumped out at me: Ambien, Ritalin, Buspar, Zyprexa, Loxapine. And then another, repeated on every single one: Tweek Tweak, Tweek Tweak, Tweek Tweak.
Some were missing from the bottom row because they were in his backpack downstairs. Very few had anything left inside of them, and if they did, it was maybe only three or less pills. They weren't in alphabetical order and the dosages gradually become larger so I could assume that this was how far he'd come since that first prescription. I wasn't as astounded by the fact that he'd ingested so many different kinds of medication over the years—this wasn't every single bottle, this was just the brand—as I was by seeing that he'd collected them.
There was a feeling of discomfort on my face, and I grabbed the Soma so I wouldn't have to look at all of Tweek's insecurities anymore. When the cabinet door was shut, I happened to see my reflection by accident. I hadn't wanted to, knowing that I wouldn't like what I'd see, and I didn't. Not at all.