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Sad

Largo wants to die.

There's a knife in his hand, and he thinks about how easy it would be to just angle it up, right into that artery, to let the blood gush out of him. Maybe the feelings would gush too. The miserable ones, right out of him, until he could feel nothing but bliss.

Bliss and stickiness, as he'd be covered in blood.

What if it could be that simple? What if he could purge all the negativity out of his system with one flick of the knife, and be left with only the glittery emotions, like happiness and serenity?

He sticks the tip of the knife into the chicken. Is it wrong to be jealous? This once struggling, abused, living, breathing creature is now dead. The suffering is over. Not only that, but its life meant something. It would be enjoyed by someone else.

He wonders what it's like to be enjoyed. He has people that refer to themselves as friends, though he knows it's a more polite way of saying co-workers. Sure, he spends forty five hours a week with them, but forty of them he's stocking shelves, with one earbud tucked behind his hair where the others can't see. One of them noticed once. They called him out on it. He said that he was listening to rap music, because that's what they all talked about during their lunch hour, while he nodded along to conversations he hardly piped up in. It was actually classical. It kept him calm, as if the sound of a piano could prevent him from blowing like a volcano.

Setting the knife down, he reaches for his phone. He needs to turn the music on. He needs to get through the hour it takes to make this meal so that he can leave it for his mother.

Is it weird to leave reheating directions on a suicide note?

There's a text. Someone is asking if he wants to join them for drinks tonight. He knows that they're only inviting him to be nice, that nobody will give two hoots if he shows up or not. He's not going to pay six dollars to sip at a beer and ogle women from the corner. He's got a tallboy in the fridge, and an internet connection. Not that it'll matter. He's not going to be able to hang tonight.

He'll be too busy hanging in other ways.

Ignoring the message, he puts on some Mozart. It calms him enough to stick the knife back into the bird, to saw the leg off. It's easy for him. How is it easy to cut apart this chicken, but he can't dare to cut himself? It should be easier than this. He should be able to cut across his body until he's ready to boil.

They would need a bigger pot. 

He starts the heat on the stock. While he waits, he can start working on making the noodles. His mother taught him this recipe back when he was a kid.

"Always make your noodles from scratch, Largo. You can taste the love."

He hopes she can taste it. There are few things in this world he loves. He loves mashed potatoes, and classical music, and his mother. The only person that makes him feel like they'd give a care if he weren't around. She rarely is, having to work two jobs to make up for his absent father, but when she is, they're together, smashing potatoes, because you can get into legal trouble for smashing faces.

He starts adding in the eggs. It's a careful process, and it causes him to slow down and breathe.

Breathing is a hard thing to remember most days.

There's flour on his hands. He wipes it on a towel for a change, instead of his pants like he usually does. If they're going to sell his things, he doesn't want to force her into a load of laundry. Everything is neatly folded as of this morning, tucked in the proper drawers. He's wearing his favorite t-shirt fresh from the dryer. It says 'God help the outcasts or nobody will.' He's a Hunchback fanboy. 

Every outcast deserves love.

Most of them.

The broth is ready, so he adds the meat. It needs to go for fifteen minutes. That gives him time to dice the celery and carrots. Time to make sure that his note is clear. Handwriting is not his strong suit. He should have typed it up, but he still shares a computer with his mother since his laptop broke. It's in the living room, where she can walk up behind him and read over his shoulder.

This note is for her, but only when he's ready.

Tonight he'll be ready.

She's not going to be home until late, after her night shift at the hospital. He hopes she doesn't try to save what's left of him. He can only imagine her worn out from work, only to return with a passed out son in her arms. He imagines how many deaths she has seen in those rooms, wonders if she'd ever be able to blur his into the rest, to pretend that it wasn't her son every time she tended to a patient in that bed.

"Dear Mom," he reads aloud to himself. "They say the grass is greener on the other side. I hope they're right. Love, Largo." 

Tears flood his eyes, and he chokes on his words as he tries to read over the reheating directions for the soup.

He doesn't know how long he cries. The timer goes off and he checks to see if the chicken is pink. There's no need to add physical sickness to the emotional sort. It's good, so he finishes cutting the noodles to add into the stock. It isn't until the soup is done cooking that he sees the vegetables, still on the cutting board. 

He's messed up his last huzzah. He takes a bite of one of the carrots. It's crunchy, as it should be, too crunchy to throw into the finished pot. 

Grabbing a bottle of ranch from the fridge, he decides to eat them instead. There's nothing but crunching and Mozart, and the occasional sniffle, because his nose is running from all the crying.

The ranch falls onto the note. He worked so hard on this note, spacing out his words like a toddler learning to write the alphabet. His carefully chosen words, because he doesn't need his mother wondering if he will be going to Heaven or not. He doesn't think God would let him in.

"They say the grass is greener. Oh, I hope they're right," he reads, laughing. The ranch has fallen on his 'n,' on his 'the other side.' It wouldn't have gone so far had he not tried to scoop it off with a celery nub.

This is the first time he's laughed all week.

His phone buzzes. It's his mother.

"Largo." 

"Mom, hi."

"I just had a patient. Young girl around your age."

"Yeah?" He doesn't know what this has to do with him, but she sounds upset, so he abandons his attempt of cleaning off the ranch to listen.

"She didn't make it. The father is all torn up about how the last thing he said to her wasn't I love you. And I know that I say this all the time, but it just felt really important to say right now." She takes a moment to collect herself. "I love you, Largo."

He looks to the pot cooling on the stove. Then the ranch covered note in front of him.

"I love you too, Mom."

She deserves better. She deserves a clean note, and soup with veggies.

She deserves a son who doesn't kill himself.

The call ends, and he's left looking at his phone screen, with that one pending text in his inbox. He clicks on it.

'Drinks at 6, at our spot. You game?' 

It's 6:03.

'Sorry, I just finished making soup. Next time, I guess.'

Next time. He's going to try to make it until next time.

The doorbell rings. 

Looking through the peephole, he sees his co-worker standing on the stoop, reading his new text. 

"It smells fantastic," he says, positioning his foot so Largo can't leave the conversation. 

"I messed it up. Forgot the veggies."

"Good, because I hate carrots. Always pick them out." He wrinkles his nose. "Now how much for a bowl, because drinking on an empty stomach is not a good idea, and we, my friend, are going to get wasted tonight."

His brain skips at the word. Friend. There's an ease in his smile, and while his brain wants to tell him it's all a trick, a polite ruse, he opens the door further, letting his co-worker, his friend, in the door.

"We are?"

"Yup. Tonight, we celebrate."

"What are we celebrating?" He doesn't remember any birthdays, or baby or engagement announcements. Then again, he had zoned out at lunch this afternoon.

He gets a knock to the shoulder. "Life, my dude. We made it through another day. Isn't that worth celebrating?"

The ranch residue has dried. His note is permanently altered.

The grass is greener.

"I suppose you're right."

June 26, 2021 12:02

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1 comment

Tricia Shulist
16:55 Jul 03, 2021

I enjoyed that. I like the slow rising from despair to hope. The serendipity of the text, his mom’s call, and the friend visiting. Nicely done.

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