Fiction Sad Speculative

“Well if that’s how you feel, THEN THERE’S THE DOOR!” 

My words cut through her like a jagged blade. Her blue eyes widened, horrified by its bluntness. Even I was surprised about the way it came out. So forceful. 

“You’re a cold-hearted jerk, Allen,” Darlene cried as she ran away from me, “I don’t even know what I saw in you.”

A tide of fresh anger swelled within me, urging me to retort her claim but, before I could respond, she was already out of the room and quickly gathering her things. Part of me knew she wanted me to follow but I didn’t. This wasn’t the first time I forgot a girlfriend’s birthday. Moments later I heard the door slam shut and that was that. A very small chapter in my life finished and done.

“Good riddance,” I said. 

But as silence gripped the household, my anger subsided, giving way to pangs of guilt. With a sigh, I walked over to the liquor cabinet, grabbed the Johnny Walker Blue Label, and poured myself a very tall glass; neat. 

“Here’s to the next one,” I said, raising the glass high. 

Looking around the quiet living room, I eyed the place where, just last night, Darlene sat, so happy and full of life as she talked about her day. I on the other hand was devoid of emotion, focused more on answering emails on my phone than I did listening to her. As I thought about it now, I wished I would have engaged with her more last night. Perhaps she would have forgiven me now if I put in the effort then. 

I quickly finished the glass, poured another, and took a seat on the couch. Gazing out the wide, glass wall, I eyed the city’s twinkling lights. I was above it all, forty stories up in a high-rise condo; A sense of pride came over me as I looked down on the smaller buildings. 

“What’s wrong with me?” I mumbled as I took another drink.

A sudden chill washed over me, heralding goosebumps that cascaded down my arm. I promptly got up and walked over to the hallway closet. Sliding the door open, I looked at the top shelf.

“Why the hell did she put the extra blankets way the hell up there.”

It was always the simple things that bugged me the most. 

I reached for the blanket, grabbed hold, and tugged. The blanket slid off the shelf but so did something else - and fast! With my senses dulled, I watched as the object dropped onto my forehead. 


Both it and I fell to the floor with a loud thump.


My forehead throbbed with pain. I blinked a few times to reclaim my senses and, eventually, managed to sit up against the hallway wall. 

“The hell was that?” I groaned as I rubbed my aching head. 

Before me was a medium-sized, wooden box, taped and sealed. The word “stuff” had been written on the side, but it had been so long since I wrote it that it provided me no context to its contents. I stared at it for a moment, pulled it over, ripped off the tape, and peeked inside. A stack of old photos and mementos lay jumbled within. 

“Is that . . .”

I reached into the box and pulled out a photo taken of me about 12 years ago. I was nineteen then, with a scrawny frame, messy brown hair, and a dorky smile. 

“God . . . dang. Was I that pathetic?”

My free hand went to my bicep, felt its bulge beneath my button-down shirt, and then traced a line to my pecs. A quick flex discredited any thought that I was still like the boy in the photo. I tossed the picture aside and picked up another. 


The photo showed a lineup of guys I used to hang out with, fun memories coming to mind as I scanned each one. The memories, however, only came in bits and pieces. Too much had happened since their inception. An unstoppable frown stretched over my face. It was a shame I lost touch with them over the years but if you want to be successful, you have to dedicate everything to the grind. None of my friends could figure that out. They were too busy getting their eight hours of sleep on the weekdays and wasting their weekends with childish endeavors. One by one they dropped off my radar and the few I did want to keep around, slowly drifted away.

I tossed the photo aside and sifted through a few more until I found another of interest. It was a candid photo taken of my friends and me at a party. The whole group was laughing among themselves. I was laughing too but my body language was awkward and reserved, a common tell I had when I tried to laugh off a hurtful joke directed at me.

 I remembered many of those moments back then, yet I never shied away from being the clown, always happy to make people laugh, even at my own expense. It never seemed to bother me back then, but as I looked at the picture now, the serpent of pride stirring within me hissed. I tossed the picture aside and picked up another. 

“How do I still have this one?”

There I was, happy as could be, arm wrapped around the waist of a pretty, redheaded woman. My eyes narrowed on her. 

“Cheating whore,” I said. 

She was my first love and like most relationships back then, I thought it was something permanent; yet all five years of our union were gone in a single moment. I remembered how excited I was driving over to her house that day, a colorful array of flowers on the seat next to me. She had been distant the months leading up to that fateful drive, with long lulls in our texts and uneventful nights of pointless TV. I naively thought that my random act of love would spark a change but my blood boiled when I pulled into her cul-de-sac and saw my friend’s car in her driveway.

My hands trembled as I thought of it now. That single act of betrayal crushed me but also taught me something valuable: the world hates nice guys and those who are kind and decent are the stepping stones of others who know better. 

Why should I be the one who gets left behind, taken advantage of, and ridiculed? Why shouldn’t I put myself on even ground with everyone else? That’s what I told myself while parked on the side of the road driving back from her house, too miserable to continue the rest of the way home. It was the creed I lived by that launched my career. 

Why did I feel so empty inside, now?

I threw the photo of me and my ex aside, picked up the one of me from 12 years ago, and walked it back to the living room. Using a bit of tape, I stuck the photo to the center panel of the windowed wall. The city lights shined through it, giving it a faint glow. Next to it, was the pale reflection of my hollow, expressionless face. My eyes darted between the two, a sadness washing over me when I realized that the happiness I experienced then was foreign to me now. 

“What have I become?” I mumbled, looking down at my feet, unable to look my former self in the eye. 

What would he say if he knew the heartless creature he would become? 

But that thought was quickly pushed out by another and I looked out over the city once more, firm and resolute. 

Where would I be now if I never changed at all?

November 30, 2022 22:30

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