Chapter 4: BoRN STUBBORN me, will always be...

I never thought a trip to the convenient store was going to be so nerve wracking. Okay, I lied, that's the very reason I had been avoiding it - avoiding everything. I swallowed my Valium and the bells clanked on the door as we entered. No one noticed us. So far, so good. Isaac slinked to the back of the store to pick up some things and I headed to the registers for my cigarettes.

"A carton of Marlboro Lights, please," I said to the clerk at the register.

"I need some I.D."

I reached into my pocket. I was twenty-one years old, and still getting carded for cigarettes! Did I really look fifteen!? I brushed it off and took it as a required step. I pulled out my driver's license, all shiny and plastic.

"Jordan?"

"Yeah, that's my name..."

"Hey," Came another voice, "I'm sorry about your loss."

I looked up at the face of the girl who said it, she had a look of concern and sympathy on her face. I looked away from her... I didn't want to believe that a perfect stranger was concerned for me. I didn't respond, but I can only assume that it was understood by the way I hesitated and picked at my fingernails.

The other clerk hesitated, and I bet if I was looking I would have seen a sudden spark of recognition on her face, "Ah, yeah, I knew you looked familiar," She said, "I feel horribly about what happened to your brother."

I nodded, and looked up at her, "Could I please have my cigarettes?" I asked, trying to avoid the topic.

"Oh yeah," The clerk said, handing my drivers license back to me, and reaching behind the counter for a carton of Marlboro lights.

"So..." Said the other girl, who was idle and customer-less. We must have been the only ones in the store. "How are you doing?"

I looked up at her, "I'm... okay, I guess..." I tried to smile, but I don't know how it looked.

"I almost didn't recognize you..." She said, "I'm a big fan of your band..." She held out her hand to me, and I took it.

"Oh."

She shifted awkwardly on her feet, I knew she obviously wanted to make conversation, and I'm normally happy to talk to fans... I just... couldn't think of anything to say.

"So..." She said as the clerk placed my cigarettes in front of me, "When... when are services?"

"Late Friday, and Saturday is the wake - open to fans... and... Monday is the funeral..." I tried to sound as emotionless as possible, I didn't want to get emotional, not here. I thought about sunny days. "There's going to be a bit of something open to the fans after the funeral... If you want to see me in a suit and tie, perhaps you should go..."

"You're wearing a suit? You'll be handsome in it, I'm sure..."

"It's amazing the things Zac makes you do."

"What color?"

"What?"

"What color suit?"

"Black. I'm thinking of wearing a black shirt too..."

"That's too dark for Zac." She said.

Isaac stepped up behind me, "Are we talking about Taylor's favorite subject?"

I turned to him, "Sort of, I guess..."

The girl behind the desk smiled at me, "Well, if it were me, I would wear bright orange... It's a Zac color..."

"Zac would've worn bright orange to my funeral." Ike said, "Taylor would wear Hawaiian print."

I hit him playfully on the shoulder, "No I wouldn't! It's hanging in my closet already... it's BLACK! Bl-a-a-a-a-ck!"

"Tay, stop whining," Ike joked with me, and I think I laughed. I looked at him and I just laughed, because it was almost normal, and I had to smile at that.

The girl smiled, "Hey, want me to ring you up?"

"Yeah," I said sliding my cigarettes across the counter, and Ike placing his items next to them on the counter.

"Is that all?"

I looked at Ike, and he looked back at me, "Yeah... I think that's it..."

"Interesting..."

I looked down, "A carton of cigarettes, medical tape, and a box of condoms... Ike?!"

"Ah, fuck you... I'm running low."

"I hate you," I said, with a smile on my face, "You never cease to fucking amaze me."

"What?"

I shook my head, and handed the girl the money. Isaac was so unusually impulsive lately. I couldn't understand how he could even think about sex... It hadn't even crossed my mind... not once. Although, I was noticing his blistered fingers. Perhaps his guitar was like my smoking habit - his release.

"Five twenty-five is your change, have a good day... and take it easy, okay?"

I swallowed, "I'll be fine."

Isaac took the bag and I headed toward the door behind him, and the girl touched my shoulder, causing me to swirl around. She looked at me with the softest look, "I love you, please be okay."

There was something about the gesture... from a complete stranger that struck my core. I felt tears come to my eyes and I turned away without saying a word and stepped into my car.

Ike leaned his head back on the seat, "So, who was that girl, anyway?"

I leaned my face against the steering wheel, "A fan... I didn't catch her name..."

"I'll drive if you want."

"Okay..." I said, realizing I was tired. Emotionally exhausted from all that pretending. We stepped out and switched sides and I curled up against the window, letting a few tears slip out from underneath my eyelids as Ike drove us home.

I returned home and smoked a cigarette while rereading and editing my eulogy, and went to sleep after a long hard day.