Never Go Home; 9x14 tag.
They've already burned his body. They left no money, no sticky rice, no jewelry. There was no wake (rather there was, there is--that is, continues to be, and it is the longest wake you've never left. Your son is a ghost, and his door is locked).
Part of you wants to be indignant about Kevin's hunter's pyre, the absence of your family's rituals. But in the end they are rituals you don't remember, would not know without the Internet, rituals you did not think you'd need to have on call any time soon, not after your father. You were all supposed to be young and healthy and lucky.
Remember that time Dad found the moldy orange in the bag? you remember asking your brother. He is laughing. It made sense then, to summon this story, in ways it doesn't now.
"We can Yelp a place," you tell Kevin as you pack his effects. "Buy some sticky rice for you--retroactive ritual."
Kevin nods, sure.
You are interrupted. "Sam's wrangling you a car," says Dean, by way of introduction. "You're gonna wanna ditch it first chance you get, though. It'll be just enough to get you back to the real world."
"There's no real world, Dean," says Kevin.
You're still thinking about your father's oranges. Part of you wants to ask if Dean knows where Quang Nam is, what its people are like, how they bury their dead. But part of you has done the math. Their family (maybe) seems the type. It's possible Dean knows too well where Quang Nam is.
And it doesn't really matter, anyway. You're from Michigan, not Quang Nam. But it would have been a comforting nostalgia.
Instead you are frustrated and empty-handed. Kevin wraps his arm around your own, but he just feels like a localized humidity. The crook of your elbow sweats. The rest of you is cold.
Dean has ten grand for you. It's almost kindness, but it's not enough. You try not to laugh.
"Taking a cut for your finder's fee?" You make a joke about Kevin's--your baby's--joke about life insurance. He'd asked her to take out a policy, because the Math IIC curve this year is gonna be brutal so would she? just in case. But no one laughs, not even you. It's been so dark for so long; you're finding it difficult to remember that your audience is larger than yourself. It's not like Dean won't get over it, your snark. (But then you look at him now, and you think maybe not? Maybe--)
More importantly, you do a disservice to your own grief, the way you parade it like a late night routine, much-awaited talk show filled daily with snappy remarks, reflections
on the state of the Union.
You can never go home, and you will never be reunited. "You're right, they're not our memories anymore," you say to the silence. And Dean, Dean looks stricken. He could be thinking a thousand things, you'll never know. He could have been thinking nothing at all. You are more strangers than you were a year ago, because you've both changed so much you can't tell each other's differences. And deep down, neither of you care. You both are darkness-bleached. And you, Miss Linda--remember your ao dai, worn once, made in China, bought on clearance--but very beautiful! just the red your mother would have wanted, a compliment you take on faith, personally you wouldn't know--remember it and the garden of your friends, your lover and your brother.
When your husband died, you could only remember how to love one person. It's exhausting, to dedicate yourself to a blankness that cannot love you back. Too exhausting, you'd thought maybe once or twice, to manage alongside a child.
But you do not know exhaustion until your child and your dead begin to answer to one name.
On the road, Kevin explains the ten grand. It's a technique you taught him, that NPR taught you--center yourself and affix your knowledge via narrative. You hope, now, that it's not NPR that turned your son into a Prophet. He takes a deep breath, vestigial psychosoma, and struggles to remain--remains--semi-corporeal. Dean's been drinking too much, he says. He can read it in Dean's biorhythms, his electric nervous system when he comes home. But he always wins big at the bars, says Kevin. Normally they'd turn him out, but he's a very loyal customer. What's why the ten grand.
"That's nice," you say.
You can never go home. Tax evasion, forced foreclosure. Slaughtered credit score. Bourgie shit like that--no, important shit like that. You don't walk away from the world for a year and expect it to welcome you back. And now, you know you have no claim to that house. Any more than you do the memories left color-coded inside it, you have no claim. You wonder if your brother kept your scrapbooks.
But of course he did. And he will honor you as he does all your family.
Lost in the jungle somewhere, I don't know--you imagine his children explaining each stick of incense they're supposed to light. Auntie, also the jungle, or maybe a car crash. Grandma, in Idaho. The uncles, in New Orleans. And so on and so on and so on, until Kevin and Auntie Linda. Kevin and Auntie Linda are simply gone; your brother doesn't know what happened to you, and his hypothesis are too terrible; he'd never share them with his daughters.
"Do you remember Auntie Linda? Cousin Kevin?" he might ask.
"Of course," says his eldest. "Auntie Linda smells like san-dal-wood."
At least, this is the story they used tell about you as a girl. All your relatives you never knew smell like the incense your parents used to honor the irretrievable. The irretrievable memory of those you do not remember.
This is where ritual breaks down. You know this. And you know that you'll never see your brother or your nieces again.
This is not the first time this family has had to choose between its children and its brothers.
(It's character-building, you said to Kevin sometimes, when he had to choose between robotics camp or the Boy Scout trip to Pictured Rocks.)
So where is your Pictured Rocks, your second best? If you can't go to your brother, where will you go?
You think of Quang Nam sometimes, place of your birth, but it's not yours, not really. It is severed from you, as you're realizing most things now are. It is home to none of your memories, and when you think of Quang Nam you know you are thinking of post cards and HGTV. At best, she is a story your father only ever half-told, this motherland of yours.
It's sad, maybe. But you cannot go home to Michigan, and you will not go to Quang Nam just for sentimental reasons. Your Vietnamese is mostly forgotten, and Kevin studied French. You will go to France.
You have ten grand, less the $600 you paid for the beater you're driving. A local library, some illicit Craigslist, and you're in the market for a stolen SSN and a US passport.
Whatever's fastest, cheapest.
"I always ask, because some people are particular."
But you have no home here anymore. You don't care where your passport says you've been, or where you've lived. You've lost far more than that already.
And you know, you don't mean that in a tragic way. Of this, you want your survivors to be certain. You've never been one for elegies. You are not a tragedy.
You have lost, in a raw, screaming, mucosal, furious way, a quiet way, a spiritual way, the way that means your Kevin is dead. And Kevin is dead means just that--Kevin is dead. There's no collection of emotions, adjectives, metaphors to substitute or analogize this feeling. There is only one way to mean what you mean, and you mean you've lost your son.
All the flights to France are booked; you substitute Monaco.
Kevin would have turned nineteen today.
Take Stock; 9x17 tag.
Whadda you got?
Is it, uh, useful? Is it coffee filters against the Knights of Hell or what?
Does it sound useful?
'Cause you're averaging like a page an hour, man, I just--
I'm a little drunk. Sue me. Oh, don't give me that look.
Then how the hell is that eff--
I said I was a little drunk, not wasted. I can read. If you want to know about coffee filters, I can tell you about coff--
Let's just work.
You're the one making small talk. Sam--
Let's just work.
Did this ever work?
Did what ever work.
Look, I wanna say yes, Dean. I do. But I don't know. This hasn't exactly been an evincing trajectory. And you know--hey, no. Don't interrupt. I--
I meant the paper-pushing. I meant the world-ending thing, and the supernatural research thing.
Has it ever fucking worked? Is there a reason we pick up a rolodex when demons start investing in Kevlar?
A rolodex? Seriously?
You know what, I already admitted I was drunk.
Well, has it ever worked or not?
What was 2005?
Are you seriously counting back right now?
I've had some busy summers. What was 2005?
Uh, Torts Law. You do the reading, you find your magic detail, master that, and ace the class. That's just how it went. So yeah, that's probably the last time this has ever really worked.
Ah, in the real world.
Not the real world. College isn't the real world. But this isn't the real world, either. This--
Oh, don't get all Matrix on me, and all this psycho meta crap--
Well, we're gonna have to go after Metatron at some point. So Abaddon's making an army; Metatron already has one.
What, of one?
Honestly, Dean? So far he hasn't needed more than that.
We'll find Gadreel, Sam.
Like we're finding Abaddon? We're being distracted from our distraction--
We're gonna find all of them. And I'm gonna take them all down.
500 count, bleached.
The coffee filters.
Dean, you know this doesn't end when you have an angel's head at your feet.
You're right. It might end before that. Thanks for the vote of confidence.
Metatron, Abaddon, Gadreel--they're the world's biggest problems but they're not our biggest problem.
Right, because we're in our special, not-real world. 'Cept we're running a little low on lore, so... What's 'our' biggest problem? Fracking? Nielsen ratings?
All right. You know what, Dean, I'm just gonna try and catch a few hours. Maybe you should, too.
Sam, I wish 2005 had gone down different.
I don't care about two thousand five, Dean.
Right, well. Coffee filters. Nineteen fifty--two.