Everything here is haunted for me. Every room, every door, every street, every store. I once loved this city, but I don’t think I can stay here much longer. I know I won’t stay here forever. Of course, I would have liked to.
Looking back at last winter, at all the misery and the ecstasy, I’m reminded of something my older brother once told me, right before he moved out west. He said something to the effect of,
“When I get back I’m sure we’ll have some dreadful things to talk about between the two of us.”
At the time we had both laughed at the darkness of his joke, with a sort of gallows humor that would only befit two headsmen fresh on the job. And thus, he moved to San Diego to become some sort of ER doctor. I remained in Pittsburgh to finish up my last year in law school, pursuing a career as a criminal attorney. Two headmen indeed, but maybe ‘gravediggers’ is a better way to put it. We were somewhat sheltered as children, so we both had an appetite for calamity and a curiosity for all things broken.
Speaking as humbly as I can, without sounding like I’m trying to boast any amount of exceptionality, we Spooners are a peculiar family, and I think that growing up as one has allowed me to adopt a unique kind of perspective of the world. I’m not quite sure how to describe it, much less to someone who hasn’t spent their entire life as a Spooner, but I suppose the very fact that I’m saying this now ought to give one the idea. I expect that I will try and fail many times at explaining myself, since there are many things that even I don’t understand.
And so, it’s with somewhat of an encumbered understanding of who I am that I begin this story; this wretched story of love and hate, mistrust and intrigue. All of which are only reserved for those who still tend to the embers of their dreams, and feed those embers with anything they can. Such ambitions are only for those who have that ineffable yearning which makes one’s feet run faster when the mile gets longer. I once had that fire, that yearning, that incorruptible dream.
But now, no matter how I try my hand does nothing but fumble toward the past. And as cynical as I have become, I admit that I still find myself dearly longing for what once was. I don’t want any more love affairs, wild parties, or distinguished company. I just need to get back to Cacey Anne Bell. If only I could, and yet I know I can’t. She’s gone, and she left nothing but the indubitable feeling that I will never completely understand what she was trying to teach me. Every day I think about this, which is why this story is so readily told. I suppose the past endures, but only as legend which challenges reality, and haunts all those for whom the sun rises.
It all started at a birthday party back in the summer before last. It was a warm Friday evening, sometime in late June, and Bo Henderson’s house was erupting with excitement. It was his 45th birthday, and every person of notoriety in Pittsburgh, as well as a great many of their subordinates, had come to celebrate. I received my invitation because I was in my third year of working at Henderson and Heller Law Firm.
When I first arrived I was taken aback by the regality of the Henderson Estate. It was built to look like a castle one might find on a stretch of Tuscan coastline, even though the thunderous crowd of people inside made it look more like Penn Station. The main hall was filled with balloons, ribbons, and hundreds of party-goers, and up high was an adornment of particular extravagance that reflected light in every direction.
Various matters of importance and non-consequence were being discussed throughout the crowd. Love connections, business transactions, gossip reactions, and decorum infractions were all bouncing between the marble walls of Henderson’s home. I walked through the middle of it all, greeting friends and strangers alike, never wandering too far from the bar.
Halfway through the night I had begun to feel a little drunk. I thought this was strange until I looked back and remembered just how much I already had: a steady amount I’m sure. Still, a voice in my head told me that I was not in any special condition that the other party-goers weren’t also in, and that my insobriety would go unjudged if not unnoticed.
I turned to the bar to refill my glass when I was approached by my boss, Justin Heller. Even after three years I still hadn’t gotten to know Heller very well. However, from what I could tell he thought I was a good attorney and seemed to be somewhat fond of me. He approached me and said,
“Jay, Parker tells me you’re a bourbon man. Bo has a bottle of single barrel Buffalo…something. Here, you wanna try it?”
To this day I’m still not sure why he or Parker would call me a ‘bourbon man’, but I decided not to question it. Instead I graciously accepted the engagement, and understood the importance of the gesture. I took a glass and stood with the rest of the men Heller was talking with.
The men talked about various professional and personal matters, none intruding on the casual atmosphere of the night. I politely listened, nursing my drink. The air began to smell of tobacco when I saw that one man who I did not know had begun passing around cigars from a box on the bar. Shortly after Henderson’s wife approached and asked us to take the matter outside, to which we obliged.