It had been 25 years since I had heard anything from Redmund Peters, but I can still remember everything. I know what they had done. Now, as he sits in my office, perusing the paper that contains a written list of all his possible futures (which I had attained, earlier today, from the D.A.s office), I still can’t pull my shit together enough to be able to tell him that I know. He remembers. I know he does. He just doesn’t remember that I was there. He doesn’t remember telling me that it’s OK, and to just stay there, they’ll be back. I know he doesn’t remember that, or he wouldn’t have so confidently come to me saying he was innocent. He wouldn’t have the balls to look me in the eyes and say that all 6 of them are lying.
I wonder if he knows what it took for me just to get here. Does he know that I was already in my 30’s before being able to turn it all around, to put down the bottle and pick up a semblance of a life? For all that I did to my liver, I couldn’t do the same to those memories. I went from the gestation of liver failure by drowning myself in ethanol to the gestation of a comfortable life by drowning myself in the cultivation of a disciplined, studious existence, an existence for which I have next to zero regards. It’s an existence which I know has precipitated a wont in me to pass up on multiple relationships with hardly a single regard. Whether or not I care about that last point is the sole subject matter of an ongoing trial within my own psyche.
It’s Redmund’s grey combover that suggests that he is only ever trying to keep up appearances, and it is clear that whether or not he knows, he has no intention of showing any remembrance of our younger days. I should, however, thank him, I think. I’ve barely had 30 clients up to today, and he has handed me the highest profile case in the city right now. A middle-aged man still making his way on his parent’s vast fortune, usually has some issues. Most, however, may not have to post a $2.5 million bail on multiple allegations.
I could have stopped it. I remember him so well. I remember him just as well as I can remember Cathy. My closest friend Cathy. My sweet, beautiful, hopeful… My confidant… I will never forget. I will never forget the time we snuck into her brother’s room to steal his weed. The time she told me to close my eyes for a kiss, and my lips were met, instead, with a 9v battery, I remember. I never got that kiss, I remember that, clearly. I remember the days with Cathy and Redmund, and the few times their sibling rivalries were nearly brought to violence. I remember wishing I’d had an older brother like Redmund sometimes. Of course, I know what they did, I could have said something.
I could have told anyone that next day. Nothing else would have had to be spoiled, curdled by the vinegar of Redmund Peters, or any of them. What good would I have done, what would I have stopped if I had said something? By the time I had made up my mind to say a word, it was too late. I was too late when I decided what to yell at Redmund that night. I was too late when I had decided what to tell my parents or the cops. It had taken me too long. I could still say something, to Redmund. Right now, I could say something. I just hope I can keep my lunch down as the words come out.
“I know,” the words barely fall out of my lungs. My ribs don’t like the feeling.
“What’s that?” He doesn’t even look up from the paper.
“That night,” my ribs begin to loosen their grip around my organs, “when you were drunk, at the bonfire. You and your friends, Tony, and them. Do you remember? Do you remember pushing me back? I couldn’t follow you into the woods. The trees — they hid you, but they didn’t hide what happened, nothing could.”
Redmund is looking up at me now, perhaps glaring through his half-rims. “When was this?”
“I just graduated Highschool.”
“Jesus, I don’t think I remember anything from back then. Sorry man.” He goes back to the paper.
“You know what I’m talking about.” I’m no longer forcing the words out, they are coming from somewhere else, some buried rage I had barely failed to drink and study away. “She didn’t want to go back there with you guys. I heard her. It was not ok. It was not OK. You said it was ok. It wasn’t. I remember that night so clearly. I remember the fire behind you when you almost stumbled onto me, telling me you’ll be right back. I remember Cathy. We were closer than you knew. I remember seeing her wrapped up in Tony… or Stu’s arms. She wasn’t kicking. She wasn’t angry, but she didn’t want to go. She knew you were too drunk, but she was too nice to say. I remember how thick the pine trees grew there. I saw you disappear, I know what happened. I knew right where she was. I was scared. I didn’t stop you, but I remember all of it. I know what you guys did.”
He stands up now. “Goddamn, man,” he scoffs, trying to play it all off, “you have something weird going on in your head. Cathy ran away. I don’t think this arrangement is going to work.” He turns to the door, but now, he apparently has one more thing to say. “I’ll leave that bottle up front for you, as a thanks for trying. It’s good scotch, sip, don’t shoot.” As he walks out, whether I get drunk tonight or not, I’m sure I’ll be seeing him one more time, soon.