All That’s Left
By Elvira Grubb
I climb into my car, knowing full well I shouldn’t be driving. When you get your license they love to jam into your head that you should never, under any circumstances, drive while under the influence, but how can you not drive under the influence when you’re always under the influence?
I clench my eyes shut and clutch the steering wheel. I’m here. I’m now. I’m fine. I’ve done this before. Getting from this part of town to my house? No big deal. Not even in this state.
If, if, I was a terrible driver, there’s so few people out at this time, and they’re certainly not on the streets, so who would I hit? Why do cops care when I’m doing fine?
Fuck that. Fuck cops. Fuck alcohol. Fuck weed. Fuck parties. Fuck me.
I drive slower than usual, not because I’m scared to get into an accident (I won’t), but because my vision refuses to stay straight, my hands sweat so much they slip on the wheel, my legs tremble. The traffic lights blend together. I keep driving. Who cares? No one crosses a street in the middle of the night. It’s fine. It’s fine. I’m fine. I’m good. Either the stars hid in the dark sky laying like a blanket over the town, or my blurry vision made them disappear. It doesn’t matter. Nothing matters.
I glance over to the passenger seat. Great. My favorite person sits there, with his stupid, long, brown hair, white tunic, and a red piece of cloth draped around his shoulder.
He doesn’t sit like you’d imagine Jesus, or God, or whoever the fuck he is, would. He’s slouching, elbow resting in the open window, cheek on his palm, one leg drawn up to his chest. And he grins. Of course he grins. He thinks all of this is funny. He thinks ruining my life is funny.
Oh, I forgot. Fuck God too.
My grip around the wheel tightens. My fingers hurt. “What?” I say. It comes out surprisingly calm, considering all the emotions welling up inside of me.
This man reminds me of everything, from devotion to hatred to kissing boys in the forest to a sweet brother and a homophobic mother and a dad who seemingly didn’t care about bruises and tears after sending me to the cleansing place for an hour every day.
They did it. They cleansed me. I don’t like men anymore.
“Aren’t you driving a bit fast?” God asks.
“Maybe.” The sight of passing buildings distract me for a moment, red and yellow brick walls fusing as we pass. I almost drive up on the sidewalk, but manage to get my eyes back on the road.
“What if,” he says, slowly, enunciating every word, “you drive into that building over there?” He nods to an apartment with nothing but a parking lot separating it from the road. “Or, we go to Nettlefield, and drive off one of those cliffs.”
I tense my jaw. “No.”
But I deserve it. I should be the one dead, not my brother, me, Aiden, should be dead. I shouldn’t have left, I should’ve kept him safe, I should’ve done so many things I didn’t do, and now I’m driving drunk with God in the passenger seat and my head is a jumbled mess and it’s like the streetlights suddenly turned off, everything got so dark outside the window, the quiet breeze stopped, my ears ring…
I deserve it. I deserve it. I deserve it. I deserve it. I deserve it. I deserve it. I deserve—
“So you think you can live with yourself like this?” God lifts his feet up on the dashboard, raising his brows at me with a mocking grin on his lips. “Say you live until you’re 70. How are you going to get through 51 years of this? All the guilt, all the anxiety. And what about 80? 61 years left. Or, maybe, 71? 81?”
My mouth turns dry. I swallow. “I don’t know.”
But I don’t want to die. I deserve it, yeah, but I don’t want it. Somehow, there’s this tiny spark of hope somewhere, buried under 19 years of constant stress from a million different things, numbed with drugs and alcohol, making that stress swell until it almost swallowed that tiny, tiny spark of hope. It’s still there, though. I can’t point out why, but it is.
“Aaron wouldn’t have wanted that.” I readjust my grip around the wheel. My hands are drenched in sweat now. I haven’t said that name in a long time. After leaving, I tried to forget him, to pretend I never had a brother.
“How would you know?” God lets out a cold chuckle. “You haven’t seen him in four years.”
“I had to leave.”
“And you couldn’t bring him?”
It feels like something presses me by my chest back into my seat, or like I’m wrapped up in something and a person keeps pulling and pulling until they’ve closed every airway and crushed my ribs. “I tried.”
“Don’t lie to me,” God says, “I know you. You didn’t try. You left him there to die.”
“I didn’t know he’d die.”
“All of this?” he continues, as if I didn’t say anything. “All of this because you couldn’t control your feelings?”
My eyes burn. “Stop.”
“Because you’re gay?”
“Shut the fuck up.” It takes everything in me to not slam the brakes, but I want to, so badly. I want to slam the brakes and punch that motherfucker in the face, not only because I’m not gay but because I used to be, and he was the reason all those people told me that was wrong, that I was a disgusting sinner, that I’d go to hell.
He took my brother from me. He could’ve at the very least made me realise earlier that I had to bring Aaron, that he wouldn’t be safe staying at the compound—the cult. He could’ve let me see that even though I was 15 and telling my brother that I loved him seemed stale and unnatural, it would’ve eased so much pain right now.
But he’s not real. I’m done with God, I’m done with the compound, I’m all for drugs and alcohol now, things that make me forget, because this is supposed to make me forget, not meet God while driving, not have him tell me I did this to myself.
My car takes up two spaces in the parking lot outside the apartment. My knees shake when I get out.
The wind catches my jacket. I pull it tighter, hugging myself, and lean back on my car, breathing in the crisp air. The sky is slowly getting brighter. A hint of pink is visible through the apartments.
“Aiden?” God sits on the hood now, legs crossed and chin resting on his hand.
I close my eyes, but it still feels like everything is spinning. “Yeah?”
“If God exists,” he says, “do you think he’d hate you for being gay?”
“I’m not gay.” That stung.
I slide down the side of the car, slumping down on the asphalt. Tears run down my cheek. I rub my face in an attempt to dry them, but they keep coming. Eventually, I give up, and lean my head back on the car door.
When I finally look at God again, he’s not God anymore. He’s blonde and blue-eyed, has pale skin and wears all black. “I think I’d know whether I’m gay or not.”
I bounce one of my legs up and down, staring blankly out over the street ahead, at a few scattered trees to create the illusion that everyone living here aren’t in the cheapest and most dangerous place in town. “I guess.”
The other Aiden looks healthier than I do. The yellow hair isn’t as flat as mine is, blue eyes not as dead, skin not as grey. “So?” he says.
“Are you okay?” Some guy stands a few feet away. I can barely make out his features in the dim light. All I see is curly hair and brown skin and attractiveness.
I hate that last one, that he’s attractive. It makes me sick to my stomach, but trying to suppress it makes my whole chest ache. “Just drunk.” I force a smirk to prove it.
“You need a hand?” he asks.
“I’m, uh, good.”
“Yeah.” I wipe my tears as if that’d solidify that I’m fine, as if more tears don’t roll down my cheek at the same time. “Yeah, I’m good.”
He gives me a quick, unsure nod before heading to the apartments.
The second Aiden waits until he’s out of earshot before speaking. “So?” he repeats.
“So what?” I ask.
“If God exists, would he hate you for being gay?”
I shrink together. Would he?
That always confused me. The people at the compound—my parents included—said God loved everyone. Then he didn’t like this kind of person. Then he didn’t like that kind of person. He especially didn’t like homosexuals.
They said it was dirty and wrong and unnatural but never why.
And I can’t see why it would be, I just feel it.
I take a deep breath. The other Aiden has already disappeared when I answer. “Probably not.”