Wait for Me (extract)

It starts with a double drumbeat. Guitars surround you. In the background there’s this sound, like champagne corks popping. The lead guitar wails and the piano comes in. Just when you think the song can’t get any better, there’s Darryl’s voice, syrup sweet: 

Midnight hour, almost over

Time is running out for the magic pair

I know you gave the best that you have

But one more chance couldn't be all that hard to bear

Then, the chorus: 

Wait for me, please, wait for me

I guess that’s more than I should ask

Wait for me, please, wait for me

I know the light is fading fast

You’re a minute gone and Darryl is singing his arse off. Another verse: he wants to keep you; he’s afraid it will all fall down. The chorus, longing by the boatful and then the bridge: two voices, la la la la la la la la la la la la la la. It sounds like a bike bell’s ringing but you go with it. It’s the la la bit again, and then the chorus: 

Wait for me, please, wait for me

I guess that’s more than I should ask

And then it’s done, your moment gone and you think, Fuck yeah: that’s my Uncle Darryl. 

Uncle Darryl says ‘Wait for Me’ is about hope: that when things seem tough, there’s always something better just around the corner.  “And it’s close,” he says. 'It’s so close you can almost touch it.'

He can say what he likes; I am in Dante Falls and Angela is in Toledo, Ohio.

Darryl’s not doing so great. He got evicted last month. I said he could stay with me; he said I was an Arcade Fire-loving douchebag of a nephew and, fuck me, he could find his own place to live. Then two weeks back I found him out front sleeping on the two-seat swing chair; his mullet hair wet from the rain, his boots soaked through and sitting on the step. His breath reeked of alcohol; his eyes were red-rimmed, his lips a faded grey. I put him in the spare room and he slept for fifteen-hours straight.

Things are a little strained. He drinks my apple juice, eats my muesli bars and plays Hall and Oates’ greatest hits on the guitar, like I don’t know their back catalogue. He woke me up last week; he was playing ‘Say It Isn’t So’ and singing all the vocal parts. I went to the kitchen. He’d drunk the bourbon, the scotch, the gin, half a bottle of Coke and an out-of-date juice box from last Christmas. 

'Darryl, you left the lid off the Coke,' I say. “That’s the thing with soda. It’s carbonated.” 

'Why do you drink that shit, anyway?'

'I don’t,' I say. 'You keep beating me to it.' 

'Who’s this girl? The one in all the photos?'

I cradle the frame, wiping dust from the glass. 'Angela. She’s my girl.' 

'You love her?'

 'It’s complicated.'

'You got a girl, Declan. You love her, right?'

'You wouldn’t understand.'

'Try me,' say Darryl, leaning back into the couch.

I tell him Angela and me grew up in Dante Falls. She started up on Toledo, Ohio right after we graduated. That’s how she says it: Toledo, Ohio, never one or the other. She wouldn’t stop: Toledo, Ohio had a thriving art community, and Toledo, Ohio had America’s first hippoquarium. I said, fuck Toledo, Ohio; it’s a bullshit town with a bullshit name. We can go anywhere, I said, but not there. 

I begged her to stay, I tell Darryl. I made her a tape: Death Cab’s ‘I Will Follow You into the Dark’, repeated three times. She cried when she heard it, kissed me like I’d proposed. We climbed onto the roof and smoked joints, the smoke drifting into the sky like thin clouds. We looked out to the bay as gulls swept in. I felt her hair in my face. Closed my eyes, said, please, don’t go.

Ever since, she writes letters. She prefers letters, says emails are senseless and lacking in soul. She leaves a lipstick smudge on the paper, scents the envelope with Armani Code. And I call instead of writing because I can’t bear the thought of pen to paper. Writing always needs to know how you’re feeling; on a phone you can lie, listen to your own conversation like it’s FM radio. 

Darryl sits silently until I stop talking. He says I’m needy. I say that loving is needing and needing is loving. 

He says I am starting to sound like The Hollies and that’s not a good thing. If I want Angela’s heart, he says, I’ll need to speak the truth, to clear my mind of every clichéd, throwaway line.

'Could you write me something? A song?'

Darryl looks away. 'I haven’t written in a long time.'

'What happened?' 

'Sara,' he says, and he stands up like he’s forgotten something. Before I know it, he’s climbing the stairs. 

The full story appears in The Geek Mook, by Vignette Press.

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