“What did you wanna be when you were a kid?” I scooted back on the counter, crossing my legs underneath me.
“Batman.” He laughed and opened the bag. “Or Luke Skywalker.”
“Very realistic goals.”
“No. I think I wanted to be a writer. Or a musician. You know something stereotypical like that.” He shrugged and stared down at the bag, as if deciding if he wanted to drink or not. “I wanted to be a librarian for a while. I loved reading when I was in high school. I used to lock myself in my room and read and make all these bad mix tapes for this really, really hot cheerleader that didn’t know I was alive. I was all very Duckie from Pretty in Pink.”
“Really?” I laughed. “I always pictured you more as Andrew McCarthy.”
“Well, you pictured very wrong,” he smiled. “I had this bad Robert Smith hair, like a horrible black mess, and when I was ‘dressing up,’ I’d add black eye liner.
“I read constantly, mostly comic books and stuff,” Jack went on. “Alan Moore came out with some really amazing stuff when I was in like ninth and tenth grade. I remember when I got my hands on the first issue of The Watchmen, and I thought, ‘I want to do this.’ I wanted to be a part of that.”
He paused, taking a sip from the bag. He leaned more against the fridge and crossed his left foot over his ankle.
“I could never draw that well,” he said. “But I worked with this buddy who could draw. We made all these really dark comics and did a whole series based on Edgar Allen Poe’s Masque of the Red Death. One night, I broke into the principal’s office and Xeroxed a bunch, and we sold them for a buck piece. Yeah, I thought I was pretty hot shit then.”
“What happened to all that?” I asked.
“I got detention for breaking into the office,” Jack smirked. “And my buddy got fired, and my girlfriend started taking up more of my time.” He shrugged. “I don’t know. Life happened, I guess. And I realized that I’d probably never make it writing comic books.”
“So you just gave up on your dream?” I asked.
“I don’t know if I would say that.” He rested his head back on the door and smiled, but it looked sad around the edges. “I don’t think it was every really my dream.”
“What is your dream then?” I pressed.
“I don’t know.” He looked more seriously at me. “What’s with all the questions?”
“I don’t know. I’m having an existential crisis.”
“I see.” He downed the rest of the bag in one quick drink. It hit him harder than the rest had, and he shook his head to clear it of the haze. “What about you?”
“What did you wanna be when you grew up?” He set the bag on the counter and walked over to me, but his steps were slow and deliberate.
“I don’t know.” I furrowed my brow, thinking. “In high school, we did all these aptitude tests, and by the time my senior year started, the teachers had all drilled it into my head that I needed to pick a college, pick a major, and decide right now what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.”
“What did you decide?” Jack stood in front of me, putting one arm on either side of me, but that was mostly to support himself.
“I didn’t decide anything. The pressure overwhelmed me, and I just froze.” I shrugged. “When I was younger, what I wanted to be when I grew up changed weekly. I wanted to be a vet, a director, a puppeteer, a ninja, a fireman, a pianist.” I shook my head. “I never really felt at home with any one idea.”
“Luckily for you, you have forever.” He grinned, but it was lopsided. “Now you can try every one of them. You can do and be anything you want.”
“It’d be easier if I could only do or be one thing,” I sighed.
“Yeah, but what good is easy?” He kissed my forehead, and with half-closed eyes, he smiled down at me. “As a great man once said, ‘We learn so little from peace.’”
“Who said that? Dylan Thomas?” I asked.
“No. The guy who wrote Fight Club.”
“Now you’re an advocate for hardship? I thought you were the guy that took the easiest way out of everything,” I teased.
“Maybe.” He met my eyes, looking at me in a way that felt like he was looking straight through me. “But you’re the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and you’re also the best. So… I think that’s the moral of the story here. Anything worth having is worth fighting for.”
“Thank you. I think.” I leaned up and kissed him softly, but he stumbled back before it got too deep.
“I’m so sorry.” He shook his head and opened his eyes too wide, like he looked really startled. “But I think I’m gonna have to lie down.”
“No, if you have to rest, go rest.” I put my hand on his chest. “I’m sorry for draining you so completely.”
I heard a screech in the garage, followed almost immediately by the sound of a car door slamming shut. Milo burst into the house a moment later, throwing open the door and stomping into the kitchen.
“Where the hell is Ezra?” Milo demanded.
“Dude, did you hit my car?” Jack asked, sounding as angry as a bleary, drunk person could sound.
“Why would I hit your car?” Milo asked, incredulous.
“You like… screeched into the garage. You drive like a maniac!” Jack pointed at him, but I’m not sure why. “You better not have hit my car.”
“What’s wrong with him?” Milo asked me.
“He drank too much blood,” I shrugged. “Never mind him. Why are you looking for Ezra?”
“My car’s a frickin Delorean. It’s a time machine!” Jack lost his footing and started falling to the floor, and I had to grab his arms to catch him. I pulled him back up, and he leaned over on the counter, resting his head on the granite countertop. “I don’t think I’ve ever drank that much blood before.”
“I’ve been getting calls from Mae all day, but I was in class so I had my phone off.” Milo pulled his phone out of his pocket and held it up to show me, as if to prove Mae called. “She left me six messages, and all she’d say is that it’s very, very important she talk to me and that she’d been unable to get a hold of Ezra.”
“So just call her back,” I said.