She Can't Hear You If You Yell
Jane was taking it hard.
She never let on, of course, but Trent could see it. Jane had to be the cool and unaffected artsy chick. If she didn't think too much, if she removed herself from everything other teenagers said and did, she could forget about how lonely she was. Most days it worked, but not today. Tommy Sherman's death was still too fresh.
Trent mentioned it to Daria when she came to the door.
She asked him a strange question. "Would you say 'it really makes you think'?"
"No." Trent said flatly.
He'd never liked Tommy. Trent didn't hate him—that sort of thing took too much energy. But he didn't like him. Between the rocks in his head and the clouds under his feet, Tommy was an unbalanced guy. Too full of himself to have much life in him.
Jane said not to let anyone in, but Daria was different. He and Daria were the only people she had in the world. He knew that too well to be jealous.
"Sometimes she's got some music on and, uh…she can't hear you if you yell," he said. "Why don't you just head on up?"
He'd been yelling lousy song lyrics from their basement for years. He used to apologize in the morning after those first few nights with the Spiral. But she just smiled and said she didn't hear anything. Jane didn't smile a whole lot back then, so Trent stopped apologizing. He felt like he was helping her, somehow, without trying or making a big deal about it. And that was the best way to do anything. Safer.
He never told her the real reason why he slept outside for six months. They had shared a room together before that, until he frightened himself with the thoughts he was having. He hoped they would go away if he kept his distance. But they never did, not really.
"Little sister, little sister
You came into my life like a twister.
What can I get you that you haven't taken?"
He shouldn't have left with Monique that night. Especially since he was staying at Daria's that time. His mom never cared, even if she was there; Daria's mom did. She was more concerned about him than his own parents. Weird…
It was half past three when he made it back, crept up the stairs and into the guest room. Jane was still awake, sitting half in and half out of her sleeping bag with headphones and a drawing pad. She put both of them down when he came in.
"Obviously," she said. She looked tired, though. Something was bothering her. "So, how'd it go with Monique?"
"Um…we broke up."
"Big surprise. You've broken up enough times to put real rock stars to shame."
He laughed, then coughed, and for a moment there was a great struggle between the two. The laugh won. It usually did with Jane.
"Were you guys always…lost, like this?"
"No," he admitted. He scratched the back of his neck nervously, but he held her gaze. "I was in love with her at the beginning."
"What's it like?"
"It's kinda hard to describe, Janie—that feeling. Like, where have they been all your life, you know?"
"Nope, can't say I do," she grumbled. "So that's how you feel about her, huh?"
"What about me?"
"Well, I know where you've been all my life." He smiled.
She didn't. "What's so bad about that?"
"Um…I'm not sure what we're talking about anymore."
"Yeah, no shit." Jane said bitterly. She turned over and closed her eyes.
He turned off the light and climbed into his sleeping bag. Her words sounded too much like his thoughts. With the two of them in the same room again, it was like nothing had changed at all.
He waited a while before he spoke again.
"Janie, I'm your brother. I can't be everything to you."
"You can. You just won't. Because you don't care."
"Go to hell," she hissed in the dark.
He'd never understood, until then, just how damaged she was.
"Maybe we just have different ideas about what a commitment is," he said.
"I suppose we do," Daria said impassively. But there was something going on beneath the surface. There always was with her. He should write a song about that…maybe later.
"I guess it wasn't such a great idea for us to get together," he concluded. "On this."
She understood. He understood even more. He was dashing her hopes now, gently, creating distance between them. There were some things she didn't need to know.
This was bad. As bad as it got.
He thought maybe she had found a third person she could trust in life, and between Tom and Daria and him, things would be all right for her. But just when Jane thought she knew where she stood, the earth gave way.
Trent knew that feeling. He was the only one around who did. That's why he was here, waiting to drive her home when she finished talking with Daria. He had already spoken to Tom. It was a one-sided conversation. Trent nailed Tom to the wall with his eyes and talked; he listened. He never came back to the house again.
Jane wasn't gone long. He only managed a 15-minute nap before she jumped back in and slammed the car door. She locked it, too. She always did that.
He rubbed his eyes. "How'd it go?"
"As in, horrible. But as good as it could've gone." She sank back into the seat. "Let's go home, okay?"
He turned the key. It took as long to get the car started as it did to get her home. Jane didn't complain. It was not the destination, but the journey—or so he told himself some nights, when he was sober enough to see the band was going nowhere.
She ran up to her room as soon as they got home. He tried to give her some time, but couldn't think of anything to do. He wasn't hungry, didn't feel like playing, couldn't even sleep. He watched a spiderweb in the corner of the living room, fluttering in the breeze from the open window. The spider struggled, hanging on for dear life.
That was his sister right now, Trent thought.
He couldn't sit here. He stood and went upstairs, unsure of what he was walking into. He only knew she needed him.
She was sitting on the side of the bed with her face in her hands. He sat down next to her and put an arm around her shoulders.
Her voice was a ragged whisper. "It hurts so bad, Trent."
"Here?" he touched her chest gently, where her heart would be. She nodded. "I know, Janie. I know."
Jane looked up at him. "Then make it go away," she pleaded.
The kiss lasted a long time.
The cure might be worse than the disease, but they couldn't wait any longer. Her boyfriend was gone, her best friend might be gone, and he was all she had tonight. It didn't feel like a sin at all. They folded together easily, naturally, their skilled hands urging each other to heights unimagined. There was nowhere to go but up.
She was beyond hearing him when he cried out her name. But she didn't have to hear him; she knew.
"Let's not hurt her, okay?" she said later.
They were used to things falling apart around them. The house, the cars, their family, relationships. It was constant loss, and it hurt her the most. She couldn't numb herself to it like him. She needed someone to hold her together.
He would be there, always.