Humans are just one of the estimated 8.7 million species on Earth. There are 7.5 billion of them across the 7 continents and 5 oceans. 250 born and 105 die on average every minute.
No matter who you are, or where you are, you are one of us. You cannot run from the circle of life.
Water makes different pouring sounds depending on its temperature. The heat changes the viscosity. Cold water is thicker than hot water, and therefore makes a higher-pitch sound.
The waiter pours him another glass of ice water. The rocks tumbling. He watches them melting slowly. He wets his fingers with water drops forming outside the glass. That’s when Harry comes in.
Harry Hamilton is a man who wears leather jacket with jeans, and sometimes, colorful waistcoat under a velvet blazer. He looks not a day into the twenty-first century.
“All right?” Harry slumps onto the seat opposite him. “Long time no see. What can I do for you?”
“A police sergeant was killed yesterday. Shot from a blue Mondeo.” He clenches the glass tighter, it feels cold against his palm. “We have no lead at the moment. Anything you can find. Anything, the car, unlicensed gun, who might have done it. ”
“It’s been a while since cozzers die on the street. Sounds to me he messed with some big boys.” Harry lights his cigarette.
John River screwed his eyes shut. The afternoon sun coming through the windows must have stung them.
For almost a hundred years, maps have shown an island that doesn’t exist— Sandy Island, supposed to be in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Australia, discovered by an explorer named James Cook. Only until 2012, scientists found out there was actually no island there at all.
River knows that even something isn’t there any more, this doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. People can presume James Cook mistook a pumice raft made of floating volcanic stones, or even only his hallucinations. The island existed in memories, maps, books and will continue to exist, just in a different way.
Stevie turns down the morning news in the radio. She’s been giving him those meaningful looks from the passenger seat since they got out of the office.
“What?” River glances at her.
“Well, you start seeing him again.”
“Ah, come on! You know. The red head.” Stevie beams.
“You mean Harry.” River keeps his eyes on the road.
“Yes, Harry, and considering your past history, don’t you think it’s an odd time to…”
“This is not an odd time.” River looks into the right-side wing mirror.
“I wonder why he’s called Harry ‘Hot Buns’ Hamilton. You’ve seen those buns. Are they really that hot?” Stevie nudges him.
“No, Stevie, we’re not having this conversation.”
“Oh, you are no fun.”
Abraham Lincoln’s bodyguard left his post at Ford’s Theater to go for a drink. This tells us that temptations, no matter how minimal, can cause damage.
Harry texted him. “Lincoln’s Inn. 8PM.”
It’s near where he lives but he really hasn’t been in there for years. The last time he went was in the late 90s.
Luckily it’s not one of those fancy places for flashy youngsters. River soon finds Harry by the counter, with a bottle of Pete’s Wicked Ale in hand, smoking.
“What’s with your knuckles?” Harry eyed his bandaged hands.
“It’s nothing.” River sat next to him. “What have you got for me?”
“You might want to visit Morley’s Auto Scrap in Southfields. I heard that is the place they usually dump the car. You’d better be quick before it becomes scraps.”
“Anything about who might be involved?”
“No, nothing so far.”
“I need to go.” River sighed softly. “You could just text me, you know. I know how a phone works.”
“You’re always so busy going somewhere. It’s been a long time, John. And you haven’t changed at all.” Harry is wreathed in smoke.
“I thought there seems to be an amnesty on smoking.” River nods to the sign on the wall.
“Well, I don’t give a fuck.” Harry smiles. “Have a drink with me.”
He asks for a Budweiser. The barkeeper gives him a strange look while Harry blows smoke rings into the air merrily.
“What made you come to me this time?” Harry turns to him.
“It’s no ordinary case. A policewoman died.” River takes a sip.
“But not any policewoman. This very special one. What does she have to do with you?”
“She was my partner for years, Harry.”
“You loved her.” Harry puts out his cigarette in his beer.
“No, don’t be ridiculous.” River snorts.
Harry laughs to himself. “After all these fucking years, John, you finally came to me because you lost someone you cared about. What a surprise! I didn’t even know you could care. What about me? Where were you when I…” Harry shakes his head and swallows his words. “Fuck you, John. You cold piece of shit.”
Kids ask 300 questions a day. Stevie asks about 500 perhaps.
“How many times have you burnt your shirt?” She is standing with him across the street from the Murphy’s, where her wake is taking place.
“I don’t know. A couple of times maybe.”
“What a shame. I love this shirt. You look good in blue. It brings out your eyes. Is blue your favorite color?”
“Are you gonna come in or not? It’s my bloody wake after all. And there’s free beer.” She smells the daisies he brought her.
“I won’t know what to do.”
“Mingling, chit-chatting, socializing, come on, you know what normal people do. In fact, you were once normal people. You’d know what to do.”
She leads him in. However, he indeed doesn’t know what to do. So he gets into a fight with Stevie’s brother Jimmy, who doesn’t like his tone of implying Jimmy might have a hand in it.
They throws him out. He’s got a black eye. Lips bleeding. Bruises on the side of his face. Panic-stricken as a stray dog, back against the wall, regaining his breath.
He has no choice but to walk towards the car park, finding Harry leaning on his 1998 Mercedes. He find it ironic that they look so very fit together.
“I see you’ve found the car.”
“I thought you quit.”
“Look, I am not…” Harry barks then quickly pulls himself together. “I never said I’d quit. I heard something today. You’ll want to know this.”
River looks at him tensely.
“And I need a lift home.” Harry shrugs.
A dozen bodies were found in Benjamin Franklin’s basement during a 1998 renovation of the house. Although those skeletons were probably for the anatomy school his friend ran, this probably means everyone has skeletons in their closet.
“No, she couldn’t have anything to do with the Somali gangs.” River holds tightly onto the steering wheel. “That’s not the Stevie I knew.”
“How much do you think you know about her?”
“She wouldn’t. I don’t believe it.”
“Boys saw her coming in and out of the Mali boys’ shops, John. Don’t run away from it. I know you loved her, but…”
“I don’t love her! She’s my partner. I’d have known if she’s been…”
“If she’s been what, John? If she’s been what?”
“If she’s been fraternizing with gang members!” River snaps. He stops the car.
They sit there in silence, until Harry breaks the ice. “Fraternizing with gang members doesn’t necessarily mean her hands are dirty. Technically, you are fraternizing with a gang member right now.”
The car behind them honks and River hits the accelerator.
“Different how? You’ve seen the footage. She and that man, hugging by the car, gazing deeply into each other’s eyes. He looks like a Mali boy to me. We’ve been there, in case you forgot, which I suspect you do all the time.”
“I don’t know how you have the balls to see me again, John. Almost 20 years now.”
“Yeah, it’s been 20 years.”
They both stare into the distance, the roads ahead, where it comes more peace and quiet since the city is running backwards from them.
“I need you,” John murmurs. “I need you more than ever… I can’t do it alone.”
“Get us home, will you?” Harry manages a wry smile.
Newborns don’t have kneecaps. They have soft cartilage that will eventually turn into bones throughout their childhood. River feels weak in the knees. If he’s not sitting down right now, his knees would probably give out. He feels like an infant with cartilage knees.
Harry is between his thighs, hands tugging his shirt, lips wet, few strands of his ginger hair falling on his forehead. Street light through the windows gave his pale skin a strange orange glow. They didn’t even bother to close the curtains.
River threads his fingers through Harry’s hair on the back of the head. He can’t help but tighten the grip. Harry shrugs it away with a shift of his head.
“I’m sorry,” River apologizes.
Harry climbs on his laps. The leather sofa beneath them rustles quietly. River’s hands find their way under Harry’s polo shirt, feeling the muscles tensed up at his touch.
Harry leans down and gives him an open mouth kiss.
“When was the last time we did this?” Harry whispers.
“Yeah, that’s right. Two days before I was shot in the street. We’ve come a long way since that day, haven’t we?”
River nods. He holds Harry’s face in his hands and pulls him down to deepen the kiss as a response.
Your liver can regrow itself in three weeks. Prometheus’s probably grows faster. But can your heart grow back when there’s a burning hole in it?
“You know he’s doing charity, right?” Stevie sits in his kitchen sipping coffee.
“Were you doing charity? For that man in the footage? Why did you associate with the Somalis? Why do you have a second phone? What were you trying to do? ” River can’t hold his questions any more.
“I don’t know. You’re the one that have to figure it out, not me.” Stevie put the coffee mug in the sink.
“Maybe I was also fraternizing with gang members, like you did. It can’t hurt to get some inside tips. And probably the sex come as freebies.”
“I was not fraternizing with them. I didn’t go to their base behind a kebab house.” River opens the fridge and puts back the milk.
“No, just one of them. And that could cost you your job, or someone’s job, twenty years ago or now. He’s a good man. I hope you could have treasured him a lot more.”
“Speaking of the past can’t change the present.” River slides into his suit jacket and walks towards the door.
“You get lonely. You are the one who said if you’re lonely when you’re alone then you’re in bad company.” Stevie follows him.
“I’m not lonely!” River shuts the door on her.