Welcome Back

Batu shoved the door in to his apartment. The setting was familiar and the smell that had settled in his nostrils was also familiar; unpleasant, but familiar. Batu waded through the misaligned furniture that had been pushed around and not placed in their proper spots.

He muscled his way towards the kitchen and a new smell hit him. Was it mildew? He covered his mouth and nose at all the glasses and dishes with standing water inside all of them. Batu was horrified and reluctant to leave his bags unattended. He journeyed to living room and found a heap of blankets piled into the corner of the couch. Batu dropped his luggage on to the floor and the blanket mountain moved.

It had only taken a moment for a finger to peak out to tear at the fabric of the cocoon blanket, then a hand, then an arm. The arm retreated and the peeled back a layer and out popped a squinty eyed man in the opposite direction with the worst bed head that Batu had ever seen: Julian.

“Oh… hey Batu,” Julian said with a little voice. “You’re home early.”

“It’s Saturday, the fifth. I was supposed to be home on the fourth. Flight was delayed.”

“Oh… look at that,” Julian said aimlessly. “Well, yay. Welcome back,” he said utilizing the weakest form of enthusiasm.

“I passed the Forbidden Forest located in our kitchen.”

“Dude, come on. You’ve been back for a minute. Don’t harass me about the kitchen.”

“Kitchen? That thing down the hallway has a whole irrigation system.”

Julian groaned and slammed back squinting his eyes shut.

“Did you have a party? I’m assuming no because attendants wouldn’t have left this place like this,” Batu said lifting up a dirty sock with a pair of idle kitchen utensils.

“You’d be wrong. I did have a party with this guy,” Julian said shoving his thumbs in his own direction. 

“I bet. What was the theme? Castle Greyskull or Chernobyl?”

“Hilarious,” Julian said, flipping on the television.

“What happened here,” Batu asked inspecting the dusty apartment.

“If you must know, Nikki left me,” he said blowing smoke out of his lips.

“Was this before or after the Temple of Doom?”

“I’m glad my life is providing materials for your comedy routine. When is the stand up special?”

“Is my room safe?”

Julian copied Batu’s question with ferocious sarcasm. “How was your trip? Five stars not enough for your glorious regal visit? Did you secure another multimillion dollar deal? Batu Halorin, the playboy came from such humble beginnings. Along the way, he picked up a few stowaways, his loser friend Julian, who still works at the local grocer. Tell me Batu, how do you do it? How do you stay so humble?  Don’t be shy now.

Batu spun around and glared at Julian.

“What? You’re gonna hit me?”

“As much as I would enjoy that, I’m not going to.”

Julian reeled back at his answer. “You’d enjoy hitting me? What’s wrong with you? What happened on your trip?”

Batu exhaled. 

“What? Spit it out.”

“I’m a father.”

“Excuse me?”

“I have a kid. I am father to a handsome fifteen year old kid.”

“Fifteen? That would mean you were in high school.”

“You passed math class. Good job.”

Julian plopped on the sofa next to him. “I don’t know what to say. I’m sorry or congratulations?”

Batu turned to look at Julian, but Julian couldn’t decipher his face. “I can’t read you. What are you thinking?”

“Why did Nikki leave you?” Julian looked perplexed. “Answer my question. Why did Nikki leave you?”

“She said it was someone else. She had to move on… past me. Whatever. I’m over it.”

“No, you’re not. You’re not over it. You want revenge.”

“Why? You know the guy?

“Yes,” Batu said, pulling out his pocketknife and handing it to Julian. “It was me.”

Julian chuckled nervously. “No, it’s not.”

“You want proof,” Batu asked. “Five years ago, you went to a food and wine festival on the other side of town. You said you got drunk and couldn’t remember anything after the second drink. I do cause I was waiting for you to pass out. Whenever she says she’s upset and she needs to go for a swim, she comes to see me. That time you went to a wedding and Nikki left halfway through the ceremony, I was right outside. We actually started, stopped and resumed a relationship for several months before I broke it off because I was simply tired of the facade. I actually went on this trip to get away from her because I knew she was going to start again. Shall I go on or do you start with the barrage of questions?

Julian elbowed him in the face and climbed on top of him and planted his fist into his face repeatedly until he lunged for his pocketknife and held it to his throat, Julian’s rage blinded him, he could barely keep his eyes open.

“Why’d you stop,” Batu coughed out.

“You screwed up my relationship and you want your blood on my hands?”

“I didn’t do anything. You screwed this up.”

“What is with you?  You have a kid now and you’re lying to me?”

“I’m not the one who’s lying,” Batu bellowed. “I’ve been lied to! I wasn’t even going to tell you until my son found me. He said he spent his entire life looking for me. Wanna know the crazy part? I didn’t feel anything. Fifteen years ago, a whole human being that’s part of me that was born from a stupid decision from an inexperienced teenager and when he finds me, I feel nothing.

Batu’s face was wrought with pain. The weight of guilt and pulled him down beneath the sea of anguish, until Julian placed his hand on his shoulder. Batu began to sob silently. 

“It doesn’t look like you don’t feel anything,” Julian said somberly. “Look, I don’t care about the Nikki situation. To be completely honest, I don’t even care what you do next. But this son of yours, you have a chance with him, and you’re no good to him dead. So my suggestion, let your son talk and then do the listening. The relationship will grow and love will flourish. Otherwise the path you are on, will certainly lead to destruction and the cycle repeats itself. 

“You must live, Batu. You must.”

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