Contest #76 shortlist ⭐️

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Creative Nonfiction Friendship Teens & Young Adult

This is not what I want to be doing right now.

How did it get like this? All I want right now is to be alone. It used to be so much fun. So, comfortable. But now my skin is crawling. I cannot even think of a conversation, a word to say, a statement to make, other than: When are you leaving? When can we call this? Do I need to order the car, or can you get it yourself?

But all I can muster is, “Can I get you another beer? Oh…cool, bet, yeah, this song is dope.”

To your, “Yeah, thanks, you know them? I keep telling you, ya gotta get on ‘em.

It turns darker, I feel gaslit, you speak so casually, and I feel so awkward and hollow; but my words are coming out just the same: familiar and casual.  You keep misremembering things, talking to me like I’m brand new and unaware. I cannot help but get annoyed; with this broiling sense of offense, and I want to shout, “I knew them before! You keep telling me shit we’ve done together as if I’m a stranger!”

Was I wrong? Is this just my bipolar soundbox sliding down the spectrum to delusion? Am I becoming a burden again? Are these emotions real or my imagination? Are you passive-aggressive, or have I just created rude undertones and secretive meanings? You usually try to embarrass me when there are people around, more and more. Setting up situations to try and talk down to me or bring past grievances up to turn opinion against me when your guests and friends warm up to me. You insert ownership over me, then bring up stories to where you end up screaming at me about past grievances when you’ve drunkenly taken command of the mood.

I have felt like this for months…maybe years now? My mind recycles even further back, attempting to make some sense of how: How did we get here? How did it crumble so fast, or was it a slow drip to corrosion the entire time? How did the flood gates open? Because we are both clearly drowning. But we both seem keen to not show our struggle, as if we both turned our backs in the descent: to choke out our last hope, masking the pleading gurgling bubbles that muffled our pleas for help. Then turned back to face one another: in our lost serenity; with the feigned courage, stanch on our faces that said: “We are going down with the ship, it has been a pleasure.”

As my mind turns suspicious. I search for the source, haphazard in my flipping of stones, to where they are somewhat unconsciously thrown into your many faces. I’m still at a bias point: avoiding all mirrors that point fingers back at me. My mind says: it is rude to stare at yourself when another is in the room. My heart is in convulsive knots, so tangled up, sputtering in confusion: that it has gone dull and is beginning to run cold.

I should not feel this way. Becomes a statement that runs on repeat through my thoughts. The reception is off, though, or is running too fast for me to grasp. It has me spinning in circles, endlessly revolving as I attempt to resolve where these emotions (or lack thereof) are coming from and what’s it supposed to mean:

I should not feel this way…because what I am feeling is wrong. I misunderstand the situation - making more of it than need be. I’m inventing and judging. I’m guilty of thinking such negativity and being too sensitive.

Or is it:

I should not feel this way…because I deserve more. This feels wrong because something is wrong. I am hurt. My feels are valid in that pain because my trust has been unrightfully broken. This is why, sitting here: trying to act like nothing has fractured between someone I once called a soulmate, who now makes me feel like I am sitting in my house alone with a stranger: who has come late in the night, taken command of the remote, and requested refreshments. While the utter shock and confusion, as I sit: in awe and wonderment. Externally calm and hospitable; internally whiplashed and on guard.

This is not right. I should not feel this way. I need to say something…but I’ve said all I needed to say more than once – only to be right back here, wanting to tell you more of the same.

“Um, yeah, sure. I don’t care, either one. Ha, yeah, whatever.”

To your, “Another? Which one you want to listen to? Oh, this one. Remember how I got you on them. Ha! I told you they were legit.”

We had a buffer when my roommate was up with us, providing a vessel to interact through her like old times. But that is another paradigm shift that has taken place behind my back: it used to be better with just the two of us. This was the part of the night where every other lightweight had dropped off. It was just us: with a constant stream of good: weed, liquor, music, and in-depth conversations. The usual gut-busting, air gasping laughs, and generally unsafe but hysterically fun games and early morning antics that ended with us both stuffing our faces with something greasy and fat to revive ourselves for the possibilities of what to do next. Recapping the bruises and accounting for the intermitted blackouts, we were always so in sync.

Is it really just me then? I have changed and want to be able to have both. But my ambitions and life goals have changed. I like the memories, but it’s true: I just don’t have that in me anymore. I feel retired and old, but grateful with no regrets (except for this feeling right now: of wishing I never caved and invited you over: after the last time I left your house in tears and vowed to myself that I was done, this friendship is over).

We had our falling outs in the past that were proportioned more towards me. There was a time I was going too far, blacking out too much, ruining the night. I was the one that had to be babysat and carried home. As we enabled each other, but also provided support. You were there for me in the depths of my mania and depression. We were each other’s support systems when we felt our families and society didn’t care, understand or accept us. We ran into each other in the bowels of our own personal hells, then went through the depths together: hand in hand as if on a leisure vacation. Not knowing at the time the relevance of our experiences.

I started to tell the differences in us when I remembered our past fondness but not wanting to relive it; no longer wishing to go backward. While you seemed to stay there and hate the present. I wanted our relationship to grow – and not how I had once hoped before. I can’t see us anymore – ancient: in our matching rocking chairs and oxygen tanks, with our beers and whiskeys on the rocks - at our sides - while one of us smokes a spliff through a stoma.

Now, I sit here, nursing a lukewarm beer at nine o’clock at night, wishing you would leave so I could relax and feel comfortable in my home and skin again. You have only been here an hour, and my roommate left us thirty minutes ago. A growing part of me cannot even look you in the eyes, and it is not just from the anger that burns throughout my chest when I do. It is because I see your pain; I see the pleading in your soul. I see the mirrored struggled that caused us to stop and recognize each other as we wandered aimlessly through waking nightmares and hellish lives.

Now the guilt I feel is the burden of weakness. I know I can’t take both our weights. I can no longer shoulder any more worlds upon my back that are not my own. I had moved away, and we didn’t talk for years until I came back, and we fell into this stride. Lockstep and at a pace, I can no longer keep up with.  We no longer walk hand in hand through eternal damnation together. I battle now with the thoughts that I left you behind. I don’t judge you, but I don’t want to be with you anymore. I want to help you, but everything you do says that you don’t like it and don’t want it. Even if your words and expressions plead for it. And I found myself at a loss, in a cycle of insanity: trying to find balance on a seesaw.

We have always been able to have honest conversations with one another, and that is how our relationship has mended and lasted for almost twenty years. I said all I have to say but still don’t know how to remedy this. I don’t want to drown anymore, I decided to swim up and find ashore.

“I think it's time for you to leave.” I blurt out.

“What? It's early, though.” You scoff.

“I’m tired. I ordered your car already.” I reply.

“Oh, um, okay.” You shrug.

“…Yeah,” I say, thinly.

“I thought we were gonna get wasted. I just got here.” You start, putting on the pressuring tone you take.

“I was drinking, waiting for you to get here, dude. I just need you to go.” The edge in my voice sharpening.

“Oh, alright. Let me chug my beer.” You say casually, ignoring my request.

“The car is almost here. I don’t want to mess up my rating. You gotta go.”

“Oh…everything okay? Come on, look at me. What's up?”

Blankness and anger, flurries of emotions, and a torrent of words flood through my mind, everything tormenting me: uncomfortably prodding me—my patience paper-thin and a minute away from tearing irreparably.

“….Nothing, I’m sorry. I’m just tired.”

“Oh, alright. Next time then.”

“Yeah.”

January 15, 2021 18:51

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5 comments

Tom .
19:18 Jan 22, 2021

Good Job on your shortlist. Every winning and shortlisted story bar one came from this prompt choice. Everybody handled it different. The intensity and uncomfortableness being suffered by the protagonist was subtle. This I feel was the success of the story. It would have been so easy to overplay the gaslighting and coercion. Congratulations 👏 on your shortlist.

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S.N. Beale
19:19 Jan 22, 2021

Thank you so much!

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A.G. Scott
18:27 Jan 22, 2021

It's honest and biting and totally deserving of the shortlist (congrats!). If I were to level any criticism, I would say that I wish there was a little more interaction with the surroundings to make it feel a little fuller and easier to visualize. That said, the bulk of the story is internal, so I understand the thought process. Nice work!

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S.N. Beale
19:17 Jan 22, 2021

Thank you so much!

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16:38 Apr 30, 2021

Nice work on writing this story, I think it is well written and a relatable story because theirs some people who are always thinking of things they'll say to people but ends up saying very little. A little criticism is to give details of your surroundings. Overall great story and congrats on your shortlist.

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