The next day was a pleasant one. Once he got up, showered and had breakfast Harwood hardly thought about the bad dreams, memories or whatever it was that kept him awake last night. But still Harwood knew that denying the bond he and Twinbrook unmistakably had would do him no good. So that morning Harwood got dressed and left his house, heading into town.
The house his agent Marla got him was located on a small island resting at the end of the Twinbrook bay. The island was connected to the mainland by two bridges on either side. The one that Harwood followed today led to the town while the other led towards the swamp. Walking towards the town Harwood was amazed at how little he recognised. But then again there was that big flood… Fifteen? Or was it twenty years ago? He wondered to himself.
He planned to turn left on the first crossroad he reached but curiosity took him right. He didn’t walk long to find the place his house had once stood. If he didn’t know it was there he would never recognize it. A laundromat was erected in its place now and looking it at it Harwood could not see a single familiar thing about it. He sighed and went back to the road that would lead him to his eventual destination.
There were two junkyards in Twinbrook and Harwood was lucky he found what, or rather who, he was looking for in the first one he searched because by the time he reached it he was already out of breath and his legs were sore… He walked behind the main building walking cautiously not to step on a rusty nail or something like that, following the noise that was coming from a large junk pile right in front of him. A man was down on his knees digging trough the pile, obviously searching for something frantically.
“Juan?” Harwood said softly trying his best not to startle the man. Upon hearing him the man stopped his search and just froze. Now when there was no more clatter of metal Harwood could hear him muttering something but then he stopped that as well. He got up slowly, and cautiously, as a man their age would and turned around his eyes narrowed suspiciously, a rusted old pipe in his hand.
Age had changed the way Harwood’s old friend looked but still he would recognize him everywhere. His hair was a mess, and unlike Harwood’s which had gone white years ago Juan still had some black hairs there somewhere. His unshaven beard and moustache were grey though and his clothes were mismatched, old and dirty. Juan didn’t move, he just squinted at Harwood seemingly trying to place him.
“It’s me Harwood. Harwood Clay.” Juan looked him over once more before he relaxed. His features softened and he even managed a smile.
“It is you… Harwood Clay… It had been a while…” Juan spoke with a heavy Twinbrook accent and his voice seemed a bit different, a little deeper then Harwood remembered, still it felt nice seeing him after all this years. He wondered if it would be appropriate to hug the man at that point but the rusty pipe still in his hand give him pause.
“It sure has Juan.” He said smiling back at him instead. “Nice seeing you.”
“So what brings you back here?”
“Retirement.” Harwood said still smiling and Juan’s grey eyes narrowed.
“Yes… You have gotten old…” Harwood laughed. It sounded earie in the empty junkyard, especially when Juan didn’t join in.
“Yes. Time had no mercy my dear friend. How have you been?” He said taking a step forward. Juan tensed gripping the pipe.
“Fine. Just fine.” He said quickly his eyes darting from Harwood to their soundings.
“Working on a new project?” Harwood asked. Juan used to be an inventor, and an artist back in the day. He often worked with scrap which is why Harwood thought to look for him here in the first place. At that question however Juan retreated yet another step back.
“Why? What have you heard? Had they sent you here? Who wants to know?” A million questions came rushing out of his mouth and his expression changed first to fear then to a look of deep distrust.
“No one Juan. No one sent me here, it’s just me Harwood… We used to be friends…”
“Yes, yes… Used to be…” Juan said under his breath. “I have work to do.” He added. He picked up a large bag that Harwood didn’t notice until then. It looked heavy and was bulging on a few places. Juan just threw it over his shoulder and not dropping the old pipe went toward Harwood, and the exit of the junkyard.
“Wait Juan…” Harwood said stopping him. “I am back. For real. This is my home number, I wrote it here.” He said pushing a piece of paper into his old friend’s hand. “I still don’t have a cell phone, I am working on that, so call me on this one… If you want to talk or hangout, or whatever…” Juan extended his hand to take the piece of paper and put it in his vest pocket.
“Maybe I might…” He said. “See you around Harwood Clay…” He added turning away from him and disappearing into the distance.
Harwood sighed deeply when he left the junkyard. What did I expect? He wondered to himself. He was away for decades and he had barely any contact with Juan or anyone else from his past. It was easier just to let go… Try and forget…
Juan was always a bit strange, to everyone else that is. Harwood himself quite liked the man. He had a unique look on life, and art and it was very enjoyable getting lost in long conversations under the Twinbrook starry nights with him. But Harwood was always aware how Juan got, especially when he was deep in one of his experiments or planning a new invention. He wasn’t as paranoid as he seemed now… That must have came after the fire.. But he would still get so carried away in moments that the world would simply cease to exist for him…
Back then a lot of people said he should be hospitalized, at the very least be put on drugs but Lacy, Juan’s wife at the time was strictly against it. She would say: “This is the man I married, the man I love, it is just who he is and I won’t accept anything that might change him.”
After the fire many people would look back to her words and say that she brought it all on herself with her unwillingness to see what was right in front of her. “She married this wretched man, and refused to get him the help he so obviously needed.. “ They would say, before adding: “But her poor sister… That one shouldn’t have paid for the faults of those closest to her… “
But that was what made it a tragedy and people of Twinbrook liked both their gossip and the occasional tragedy to spice up their dull lives. Harwood never blamed poor Lacy, nor Juan, for years he blamed himself but even that wore off… There was nothing that could change the past… Nothing to bring his Macy back…
Harwood closed himself in his studio for the greater part of that day. It was just what he did whenever he wanted to escape the harshness of the real world around him. And here in Twinbrook reality just seemed to never leave him alone… Stones he left unturned for way too long were all being turned at once… It was scary but inevitable. He knew it the moment he stepped off that train, or at least he should have known….
The ice still wasn’t ready so he worked with clay until his hands and back were sore. This wouldn’t be his best work ever, but for the first time in many years he just didn’t care…
For his evening entertainment he turned to the bookcase in the corner. He had filled it randomly selecting books out of his trunk and ordering them around the shelves and as a result he had no idea what exactly did he have there.
Back at the city Harwood hardly had time to read. Life out there was fast, time was short and every second precious… But out here he could easily picture himself just lazily laying in bed and turning pages as he gazed over the still Twinbrook Bay….