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Shannon, we need to talk a bit about your brother, whom I saw a few days ago—yes, I saw him. I didn’t tell you because I was saving it for Friday, for tonight. No, I’m not trying to scare you. Look: I just wanted the week to be over and have work behind us—that way we could talk about this without needing to rush through it because of the time.

Again, no need to worry. He looked healthy and fit. So yes, I went Tuesday, and we had a couple of beers together. It was a nice time—but something did come up, and I haven’t gotten to the bottom of it yet, but I did want to mention it to you, because if it turns out like I think it might, then we’re going to have to get some professional help again.

In general terms, though, Leonard’s okay.

I know he’s just sweeping the floors of a convention center after, like, Ted Talks, but he’s doing great in that job. I texted Michael just for proof, and he said your brother’s killing it. You know, we should get Michael a bottle of wine or something for helping us out. Now then, I’m going to tell you about the one thing I didn’t like. Let me rewind.

Tuesday  morning, as I walked out of the subway station, I bumped into someone that for a moment looked like your brother. I almost said, “Leonard! How are you?” before he turned around and it wasn’t him. But I swear: same height, same build, even slicked his hair to the side like Leonard. That’s what reminded me of your brother. I then decided to text him to see how he is. He gives me a call around lunchtime—says he’s doing good, that he’s feeling good. Then he lets out that he’s been seeing this girl. I say, “Great, happy to hear that!” I go ahead and ask him what she’s like. He says she’s wonderful, and was, in fact, planning on telling us about her. He invites me over to his place because he can’t talk too much right then. I say, “Sure, I’ll swing by after work,” and so I go.

The first thing that catches my eye is how good your brother looks.

He’s in pretty good shape. What, just a year ago we picked him off the streets? Anyway, we relax, drink a beer or two, and soon enough he begins to open up. “Serenity is her name,” he says, “and the strangest thing about her is how she seems to personify her namesake. I mean, she makes me laugh, and she’s so kind to me. But the strangest thing is that, whenever I’m around her, I get this feeling of, yes, serenity. Her presence overwhelms me with this huge sense of calm. I forget my past and my problems.”

“That sounds amazing. I’m happy for you. How did you meet her? Was it at work or at a bookstore?”

“She just popped up on my doorstep, believe it or not.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean she lives right across the hall. That red door? That’s her. And she knocked on my door one day, asking if I was alright. Thing is, I had cut myself as I was dicing an onion, and I was cursing my butt off. She had heard me and thought I needed help. And this happened about two months ago.”

“So you’ve been dating for how long?”

“We’ve been seeing each other for a few weeks.”

“Awesome: Let’s meet her. She’s right across the hall, right?”

“Oh, she’s out of town at the moment. But, yes, I’d love for you guys to meet her.”

Leonard then begins to tell me more about her, and that’s where he begins to disconcert me a little.

He can’t quite tell me what she’s into. He hasn’t asked her about this or that, or he hasn’t cared to ask. He can’t quite tell me what she looks like either. The color of her hair varies between light blonde and jet black; the color of her eyes, between green and hazel.

I asked him for a picture of her, and he thought he had one, but apparently he didn’t. I don’t press him too much because he’s feeling good, so I changed the topic before I eventually called it a night. Okay, I thought, it’s only been a couple of weeks. They’re barely getting to know each other. I’m sure we’ll get to meet her soon, and Serenity will be this amazing and lovely human being.

On my way out of the apartment building, the janitor startles me as we nearly bump heads after turning a corner. After apologizing, out of a spontaneous gut feeling, I ask him whether he knows what a tenant is like, who sometimes has blonde hair and sometimes black.

“She lives in four-oh-something,” I add, thinking I was being vague.

He immediately responds, “Oh, you’ve seen her?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean the young lady who used to live in 405.”

“Used to?”

“Yes, sir, used to, because on a nice night like this some time last year, with a handful of pills, she decided to call it quits.”

My spine shivered and the hairs on my arms stood up. I just thanked him and walked away. I want to give your brother the benefit of the doubt, Shannon, but I don’t know. What do you think?

Keven Balderas

Keven obsesses, nearly to the point of madness, over a new interest every two years. So far, his interests have included Latin, drawing, skateboarding and photography.

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