Broken Men and Broken Ideals by Brandon Scott

For Camden, who understands the dark as well as I.

Forever broken, never the same.

The vase, like my life, was shattered. I stared at it. Never the same. Glue could hold things together—make the cracks fit. Make the smile hold true. Make the people around never suspect the realness of emotion. Of ideas.

No. No realness. Fake people, I thought. Fake people with fake deplorable lives. I sat there, and I looked out at them and swung my legs in the open air. I would never fall, and even if I did, I could catch myself before impact. Or something would. Something built into the patio would catch me.

But not the vase. Falling down from the slightest provocation. The smallest nudge. The hint of gravity sending matter toppling down without its own protection.

I think it was my mother’s. But I don’t trust that memory. I trust none of them. What are memories nowadays? When we record, we can change the recordings. True for the camera. True for the brain. I don’t know whose ash I let spill around the blacktop below me. I don’t know who was now looking up at me in annoyance. Who was swearing, but not paying attention to me. He only cared about who would clean up the vase. Not him, never him.

Not his responsibility. But hey, I didn’t want it either. I swung my legs again, beating a rhythm only I could hear, and I wondered if he would come up here and demand I do something about the vase. That I be the adult.

Am I an adult? I do adult things. I did adult things yesterday, and God willing, I’ll do more tomorrow. I make love. I pay taxes. I spy on my neighbors for the reward money. All adult things. But if he came up and demanded I do something about the vase, I don’t think I would—not even if he threatened me.

Not my fault. Never my fault. Nothing is ever my fault. I cause nothing, and in exchange, I hope, no one bothers to cause anything to happen to me. If a burglar broke in tomorrow, I would ask him to leave in peace, or to do something awful. If he hurt me, then it would be his responsibility.

The beads of the entrance—hung there because we thought the doorway could make good vibes or some such—clicked and the most adult thing I could do sat down next to me. Kids have crushes and dates. I have a relationship.

It’s like a date but with less communication and fucking levels varying depending on how close we were to throwing each other over the balcony without the catching device to stop the fall. I call it home. Some might call what we attempt “love.”

I think someone used to love that vase too.

“What are you doing?” she said. She sat next to me and let her ankle touch mine before beating a languid rhythm against the side of the patio.

“I don’t know. Waiting, I guess. Work is over. Is dinner done?”

“I don’t know.”

I tilted my head at her, feeling the faint burn of tiredness on my eyes. But the sun did not go down yet, and so I did not sleep. It might break the pattern. And despite me breaking the patterns of the floral ceramic, I dislike to break patterns. They give me structure, and I don’t think I would have anything without structure.

“How could you not know if dinner is done?”

“I just don’t.”

I didn’t have an answer to that.

“Is that my vase down there?” she said.

“I don’t know—is it your vase?”

She blinked a few times, and the faint smell of food wafted. I think it might have been burning. But I don’t know for sure. If it did, something would put it out for us. Order food for us. It was a good attempt on her to make anything, let alone food—but she did not have to be responsible for it.

“I don’t know,” she said.

I licked my lips and stood. The wind hit me and made me worried I might topple. Even if I did though, I would be fine. I am not allowed to fall. No one is allowed to fall.

“Come on,” I said. “Let’s eat. I should be hungry.”

“So should I, if I am remembering right.”

“You probably are.”

“How can you be sure?” she said.

“I can be anything, I guess.”

She snorted in a subdued way. She stood up too and looked down at the angry man—still not doing anything to solve the problem.

“Then be someone who is eating, I guess,” she said.

“Okay.”

I popped my shoulder and wandered into the house, and the small robot placed the food down for us. Not burned. Good. Not burned or broken or busted.

We ate, and we talked, and we slept together in the same bed, and it all moved in the way all things move: not by my hand. Not by my will. And I suppose I am supposed to be happy with such a thing. And if I knew what the word meant, I would tell you if it made me happy.

If I knew what it meant.

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