I try to stop my fingers from restlessly drumming on the comforter, but at this point, I'm finding it harder and harder to avoid checking my inbox to see if Lindsey's gotten back to me where she wants to meet up. From across my bedroom, I briefly make eye contact with my reflection in the mirror dangling from my open door. Even for 18, I look unnaturally scrawny, and my body fat looks every bit as nonexistent as the inner confidence that could make me a good, if not great, David to her Victoria Beckham. Although I haven't spilled the beans to her yet about what living behind Apartment 8B is really like, no matter how much I force myself to sanitize it when she asks, I worry that the real, whole, and nothing-but truth will uncork itself sooner then I expect. What would happen when the day comes where she wants the both of us to take loving, touching, and squeezing to the next level, and I'm not able to keep my cut-up job hidden beneath the shirt and zip hoodie she'll probably want me to remove desperately? Would she bail on me then if she's unsatisfied at the fact that I have more levels of emotional distress in my life than someone from a primetime soap opera? Hell, what if one glance at the lines on both arms and chest is enough for her to kick me to the curb and say, "Thanks, but no thanks, I want the whole enchilada that's free of daddy issues?"
I nearly jump as the buzz of my phone going off rings through my ears. I hastily check it to see, at least to my partial delight, that it's from her.
Hi, gorgeous :)
i was wondering if we can meet up at jansen lake? we can watch the sunset and snuggle up together :)
Sunsets sound beautiful. I want to feel beautiful and not be under the iron grip of a piss-poor excuse for a father figure who probably won't cry if I take myself out from this world.
Hopefully she'll care.
sounds awesome! :) i’ll be there soon
ok cool ill see you then!
I hop off my bed and make my way to the living room. The gunfire and frantic screaming becomes more prevalent once I enter. He’s facing away in his recliner, clutching what I see is his fourth bottle, the other three lying empty and sucked dry on the floor below him.
"Hey, Dad?" I ask.
No response. I can't tell if he's deliberately keeping the volume up to ignore me. Sooner or later, someone from next door's going to be rapping angrily on ours, yelling at us to turn it down.
"Dad?" I try again, louder and slightly more forceful. I watch as his finger jabs the mute button, and he lets out a disgruntled sigh. Whatever's going to follow next will either go south or so deep south it'll almost be hopping the border to Mexico.
"What?" he spits. "What the hell's so damn important you have to interrupt me when I'm trying to watch a movie?"
"I have a date tonight with Lindsey. I'll only be gone for about two hours."
He brings the bottle to his face, hidden from the other side, and takes a long and somewhat patient swig before speaking again.
"That some dumb bimbo you crossed paths with at school?" he snarls.
"I've been seeing her for the last few weeks, Dad." I hope you choke and gag on that special happy juice of yours, you jackass. "I've mentioned her to you a few times."
"Well, that doesn't mean shit to me."
The silence clings to the air around us. It stinks of a discussion spinning rapidly out of control. Nonetheless, I decide to press on.
"Well, um, I'm leaving now. See you in a bit."
"The fuck you're going anywhere at all tonight."
I freeze. "I'm sorry?"
He abruptly pulls down the lever for the footrest and swings around to face me. He's a chubby but not overall fat man whose belly noticeably sticks out from behind his red and black checkered flannel. In contrast, his head is abnormally grotesque, where his unkempt hair dangles like rotten spaghetti from his balding scalp, and various bits of what I see are potato chip crumbles lay strewn across his half-shaven beard. His eyes carry such a vicious, hateful glare it feels like he's trying to crack open my skull and pull out every thought I've ever had of him.
I hope he never discovers the ones where I wish he would fall, hit his head, and somehow never wake up.
"You think that's gonna be the way you decide to live in my house?" he begins. "You just gonna sneak in and out whenever you want so you can go and jump bones with some whore you barely know?"
"Dad, no, it's not that at all--"
"When's the last time you learned what real parental authority was, boy? Or does that mean jack-diddly fuck-all to you because you think you're above all that?"
"Dad, please, just let me go--"
Immediately, he jumps from his seat and pins me against the wall until his face sinks into mine. The stink of whiskey long-drank uncomfortably overpowers my nostrils while I can feel fear smashing against my chest like a drum.
"You better not be disrespecting me," he growls. "It's bad enough I'm doing everything myself by paying all the bills that keep heat pumping and electricity crackling in here. And you think you can avoid that by just pissing on your end of the deal?"
"No. Don't even start with me. Better that you keep your fucking mouth shut if you don't want to dig your grave any deeper. You're not seeing any little honey bitch named Lindsey anymore, and you're gonna start listening to my rules more around here whenever I tell you to do something, you got that?"
"Get out of my face."
The fire is starting to rage hot inside of me. Its boiling sensation doesn't feel much different than the searing burn that comes from my scars whenever I cut in a fresh set, but this still somehow feels unusual, and the attitude it carries isn't the same.
At first, he says nothing. His reaction initially speaks bewilderment, but after several seconds it turns into a tight, hateful frown as it looks like my words have finally sunk into his head. "What the fuck did you just say to me?" he snaps.
I hesitate to bite my tongue and play stupid with his hearing, but at this point, I can feel the anger making its way up past my throat until it explodes in the form of a single, furious demand containing hatred from years of verbal abuse and physical disfigurement:
"I said, get out of my face right now, you drunk piece of shit!"
His tight fingers latch onto my shoulder and dig into the fabric like claws before I'm thrown to the hardwood floor, back bursting into an explosion of pain that almost makes me yelp. "Fucking little twerp," I hear him mutter when suddenly, he grabs ahold of the same spot again and tosses me head-first into the side of the armchair. This time, I groan from the hurt of the impact, which leaves my vision growing fuzzy and disoriented. From my pocket, I can feel my phone start to go off with vibration after vibration.
"You're gonna get it good now, you little cocksucker," he sneers as his hazy form leers over me. "You just opened Pandora's fucking box with both hands on the lid."
I reach back, trying to regain my bearings, when my fingers brush up against a bottle. Slick yet hefty, it feels right in my palm. Then, I see him coming in until he’s leaning inches away and ready to beat me senselessly.
I bring it to make contact with his greasy forehead, where it explodes into fragments that scatter amongst our surroundings. He clutches his now-visible wound in complete shock, and his screams start to ring loud and wild like a dying fox. I shove him directly into the bookcase as hard as I can with both palms, where he causes it to break instantly and send various books onto his bleeding cut, all of which brings his cries to a shriek so loud I feel I might go deaf. For a moment, I don't think it's enough; I want to leap on top and beat him black and blue until he can't open either swollen eye wide enough to see each fist coming. But Lindsey's waiting. And I don't want to be late.
I sprint out the front door and down the stairwell until I've reached the parking garage, taking massive strides all the way. Even then, I don't stop until I've arrived at my car, where I start it up as fast as I can turn the keys into the ignition and speed out through the gate, refusing to look back until I've made it into the streets.
I'd been driving for at least ten minutes until I realized I'd been going in a circle around the same block as my apartment. I hate the city. I hate everything right now. But what I hate most is that I hadn't kept the razor blades to slit the fat shit's throat so I could watch his blood pool out like a dirty fountain and see all the color drain slowly from his scraggly face.
Even at that instant, I hate not being a murderer.
My phone is buzzing again, but I'm too angry to answer, and I feel gripping the wheel tightly is the only thing that prevents me from wanting to do something abjectly worse to myself than bringing the blades to my chest or arms again. I don't want to hate Lindsey too, but I find I'm leaning dangerously close. From the dashboard, the clock is beaming 7:30 pm in bright blue, neon digits.
I pull next to a sidewalk to observe it closer. They look as shiny and beady as the glint from his eyes.
Beady, hateful blue, like a blue that never met a suicidal son it didn't want to piss on.
And I loathe it.
It all darts into my knuckles so fast I nearly startle myself, but by now, I can’t stop punching at that clock and its neon numbers any more than I can get the wires of self-hatred wrapped tightly around my mind to loosen. My fist goes at it faster and faster until the plastic glass covering it starts to crack. Seconds later, it shatters entirely, and those same numbers disappear altogether, producing only a jagged, purple, and green line in its wake and leaving my fingers numb. Painfully numb. I bring my face down, wondering if I can let myself cry and flush out every last bit of inner anguish and watch it sink into a little, damp stain on the floor protector below me.
I blink. Once. Twice. Three times.
They're so dry. Uncomfortably dry, like Sahara Desert in the middle of July dry, and it makes me want to scream. Just one more name I can add to my negative roster of makeshift titles, beginning with "Loser," and continuing with "Shithead," and "Giver-Upper" until finally culminating in my brand new label, served fresh off the assembly line of self-pity: "Dry Eyes."
A group of excited voices wafts through my rolled-down window. I turn to see a family of four just outside of a deli eating their dinner of cold cut sandwiches and multi-flavored Snapple bottles under a table with an umbrella. They all have smiles stretched so wide across their face that they look like something out of a horror movie. The mom, a young, thin lady with a yellow tank top and denim short-shorts, is trying to keep their son and daughter from wiggling off their seats and help them eat, something she looks like she's succeeding in doing without any visible frustration. The dad is a beefy, slightly overweight specimen, looking like he's eaten more meatball marinara subs than he's ever placed anything with vegetables in his mouth. I can only make out brief fits of indescribable talk that all carry the same note of delight to their tones.
Tones that sound happy.
They’re all happy.
Another buzz shakes my pocket. I finally take it upon myself to yank it out and check: five total messages and one missed call, thankfully, none from the fat shit himself.
But they're all from her, and each one I read feels like it's trying harder and harder to eat me alive the more I scroll down.
6:57 pm: missed call
6:58 pm: see u in a bit, sweet thing ;)
7:07 pm: U still coming? please i hope ur not running too far behind
7:14 pm: What's going on? Please please answer me soon :( Im getting worried
7:20 pm: seriously, why cant you pick up ur phone!!! ur making me nervous
7:25 pm: OMFG i can't believe ur bailing on me now. this the kind of boyfriend you want to be?? u better make this up to me good.
It all slams into my head like a wrecking ball to a weakened concrete barrier before I even read the rest of her last text.
I'm not ready. And I never will be. The clay that holds all of me together is too loose to make me prepared for anything I can set my mind to.
Then, I see the high bridge crossing over the lake some several hundred yards ahead of me.
The sight of it makes me slam the accelerator so fast to the point where time slows down and almost feels irrelevant to me, as though it's just some abstract concept like wormholes or multiple infinities that people don't take the time to understand. I let my foot off once I've made it onto the main deck, where I park next to the adjacent walking path and climb out. The cool September wind feels like knives stabbing relentlessly at the back of my neck as it blows across. The traffic is surprisingly few and far between, with only an occasional car or truck speeding by, yet none slowing down to look.
It feels much better that way.
I look down at the water, fairly still yet somewhat choppy as the waves slap up against the thick concrete support giving the rest of the structure its stability.
The waves know how to be better alive than I do.
My eyes never leave the view, even as I step up onto the railing overlooking the extending horizon. It feels inviting and blissful, almost akin to a long distant relative opening the door to welcome me into their home for the first time since I've met them.
I can't tell if the fall happens because of a slip due to a loose sense of footing or because now, I've felt more ready to move on than ever.
Regardless, the waves are bringing themselves closer and closer as I go faster and faster.
I feel like I'm the last great survivor of a world plagued with false promises of everlasting happiness that rings hollow to those like me.
And to all of you within the void, I’m coming home to you soon.