Drama Fiction Romance

I would love to be skinnier, I really would, but the ponds here are so shallow and the creeks are so narrow; the sidewalks are clogged and the shoes on my feet feel heavy because of the care I see in everyone’s eyes. 

Currently, I am behind a boy in a letterman jacket and faded blue jeans. We are shambling along in the midst of thousands, inching our way past the plazas of coffee shops and convenience stores and soaring apartment buildings, and I think we’re going to be late for our eight o’clock lecture.

 I also think this boy’s name is Ralph, but I have no way of knowing. We met once on the first day of classes, three weeks ago, and have sat near but never beside each other every day since. We do not speak; we just focus on the lecture and wait for it to be over, and when it’s over we nod at each other with our lips pursed and then are on our respective ways. 

Another thing I am thinking to myself is that walking on these congested sidewalks  behind these soulless people is a truly symbolic experience; I can see all the truths of the life we live, splattered across these cement tiles in elegant colors.

We’re at the crosswalk now, a carnival of blazing red lights and bells, blaring, and all I want to do is run because it’s all so bright and horrific.



“Uh, did you get the notes from Monday?”

“Monday? Yeah. I got you.”

“Thanks, bro.”

I promise to send Ralph pictures of my handwritten notes and he scoffs at me for using paper like a time traveling refugee from the Middle Ages and we let the momentous crowd carry us down the cement steps to the third row of seats. 

We sit, always in the third row, and I can finally finish my thought. There is sweat beneath my jeans and my white t-shirt, sweat dripping from my lashes, bringing fog to the lenses of my glasses—the walk has made me damp, for the sidewalks are the canvas of life. 

The people ahead of me on the sidewalks are everything wrong with this world. They’re always slow and bumbling like zombies, their existence a sore reminder that everything in life has been designed to constrain you—you, all of the boys and girls who just want to snap. 

We can’t, because of them. We are like prisoners in a cell with a silver key lying in the corner, but our cell mates are the ones with a rope around our necks, holding us back. 

The lecture ends and we are suffocating each other again, all of us here in this vast room with our purple cheeks and our bleeding lungs, staggering around on our way to our next classes, aimless in a void of grey that lacks hope. 

“Do you ever just feel hopeless?”

“Yeah. Sometimes.”

“Me too.”

“It’s like we’re all watching each other drown, and the only thing left to do is laugh.”

The roses in her hands are exactly the gift you’d expect from a girl with a broken heart. The bloody bouquet is held in two of her hands, not just one, and her forgiveness is more than either of us deserve.

“Well,” she smiles. “Should we find a place to eat?”

I smile back. “Can’t we just stay here?”

A sigh leaves her thin, coral shaded lips and I love the way they come apart so slowly, as wet and alluring as her viridian eyes. “You never take me out anymore.”

It’s a statement, not a question, but I still smell like rotten fruit and I bet the cops are still out searching for me, cruisers parked all along the boulevard, lights flashing silently.

“I do take you out.”

“Not as often.”

“As often as when?”


“Before what?”

“Jake, I’m gonna slap you.”

She’s never serious when she says that and I’m laughing. “Okay, okay. How about we go out in… an hour?”

“Mmm. All right. As long as we’re gone before my parents get here.”

When Ralph asked me for my help, I thought we were going to be selling drugs. That’s the way he made it seem: he came to me after our lecture one Monday morning and told me he was trying to make some quick cash. 

“We’ll make at least two grand,” he promised. “You want in or what? I’ll split it with you.”

When I met him behind the dumpster in the back parking lot, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew to dress in all black and I brought an extra black shirt to tie around my face, but he didn’t let me in on too many details. I also wasn’t sure why he’d chosen me; surely he has other friends he’s spoken to more than once. The only thing I was sure about was I felt alive there in the dark, everything about us and our actions entirely contrary to the slow, suffocating rhythms of everyday life. 

“I used to work here,” Ralph said, gesturing at the loading dock to our left. 

I took the joint he had between his fingers. “Yeah?” 

“Yeah. I quit at the end of last summer and they still haven’t given me my last three cheques. A bunch of other people warned me about that, and… well, they were right.”

“Damn,” I muttered. 

After we finished the joint, Ralph led me up a steel staircase and started yanking on the back door, which eventually popped open. 

“The alarms don’t work,” he assured me. “Neither do the cameras.” 

The store was dark and I had a hand on the knife in my pocket. I followed Ralph out into the aisles, which were mostly empty because this was a fresh market, carrying fruits and vegetables and meat. 

“They keep all the products in the juice cooler overnight,” Ralph explained. 

“Yo. So, where’s the money?”

Ralph just laughed. “We have some work to do first.”

And then we were taking food from the coolers—berries, melons, lettuce, apples, steaks, chicken breast—and tossing it all over the floor. My heart was racing and I kept pausing to glance out the front windows, making sure there was no one in the parking lot. 

“Chill out,” Ralph told me. “No one’s ever here after eleven. And trust me, bro: these guys deserve it. If you worked here and got screamed at and scammed like me, you’d get it.”

I didn’t really care whether these guys deserved it, I was just happy to be with him, doing something bold, keeping ourselves away from all the quotidian normalcy that festers on the sidewalks.

“Shit. Hold up.”

We were crouched on our knees behind the cash registers, two sets of wide, glistening eyes in the cloudy darkness. Ralph had a finger to the spot on his mask where his lips must have been and I could hear footsteps echoing from the back room; they were careful but heavy and none of the lights came on. 

“It’s Cory,” Ralph whispered. 


“The store owner. It’s him.”

“How’d he know we were here?”

“I have no idea.”

Cory’s footsteps were getting closer. Every few steps, they would halt… only to resume. He was checking the aisles, his work boots sloshing among the utter disaster we’d made of the floors. There was even juice where we crawled among the registers, soaking through the knees of our pants and making our fingers sticky. 

“Hold on,” Ralph hissed. He peeked his head around the corner of the candy display and jerked himself back. “Jesus. He’s right there.”

We started crawling back around the counter and please, tell me: have you ever felt it? Life is heaviest when you are trying to escape it; as we tucked ourselves away in the shadows, I could feel my heart pounding and here’s the truth: the wages of a normal life are idleness and regret, but the wages of an extraordinary one is death.

Cory was coming our way, his footsteps heavy with the weight of reality and punishment, and so tell me: have you ever felt it? The weight of real fear… it’s suffocating. 

“This way,” Ralph murmured. 

We made it back to the juice cooler, chunks of fruit and raw meat sticking to our hands and arms and knees, and finally to the back room. We hid ourselves in the meat room, a walk-in refrigeration unit big enough to hold two of my mom’s living rooms. 

 We hid behind two stacks of beef boxes in the corner and waited for the doors to stop swinging.

“Shit,” I said, pointing with my eyes. 

Ralph didn’t have a chance to respond before Cory’s tremendous form came through the black, single-windowed doors. 

“I know you’re in here,” he said, his voice like thunder, and then I heard the cocking of a gun. “Come out and no one has to get hurt.”

Ralph was slipping his shoes off and I watched as he disappeared around the corner, padding across the floor and behind another stack of meat boxes. There was a soft, hardly audible clang from that direction, but Cory didn’t seem to notice. 

“Who are you? Huh?”

I could see a sliver of him through the seams of the boxes, his silhouette a mere two feet away, his pistol aimed straight at my head. My right foot slipped on the cold floor and kicked a crowbar into the wall. 

“There you are—”

But then Cory was whirling around at the sound of Ralph’s shoes squeaking on the floor. He caught Ralph by both of his wrists and headbutted him so hard it echoed. Ralph collapsed to his knees and the fire extinguisher he’d been holding in both of his hands rolled across the room, coming to a stop against a shelf loaded with chicken breasts.

Cory was moving for the lightswitch by the door, but I was on him before he could get there. His blood was dark and wet on my hands, slick like oil as it ran along the steel shaft of the crowbar, and all I could think was how drastic the disparities between the past and the present can be.


“Aw. My head, man.”

“Ralph, are you okay?”

“Nah. My… my head.”

He was kneeling on the floor with his head in one hand and blood was seeping between his fingers, spotting the floor. There was juice leaking in too, spreading through the doors, which were wedged open by Cory’s colossal body on the ground. 

“Ralph… oh, shit.”

“We still need the money.”

“Yeah. Yeah, hurry.”

Ralph took a key from Cory’s backpocket and led me to the main office.

“It’s actually lucky he showed up.”


“Yeah. I was trying to think of how we’d break this door down.”

We opened the cash drawers that were locked in the back of the office for the night and started stuffing our pockets with wads of hundred-dollar bills. 

“Bro, this has gotta be, like, five grand,” I laughed. 

“Yeah,” Ralph said, trying to keep his face from bleeding all over the money. 

“All right. Let’s get out of here.”

We are eating at the sushi place down the road from her house; her nails are a thousand shades darker than the roses she bought me, the fingers of her left hand bent delicately around her chopsticks. The windows are black and the lamps are dimly yellow above our heads, and people are so beautiful in their mystery, aren’t they?

“I still feel a little unsure.”

“About what?”

“Just… all of it I guess. I don’t—what do you mean about what?

“Well, I don’t know. There’s a lot of things to be unsure about.”

We left the roses in her room and all I can smell now is the wine in our glasses. I haven’t taken a sip, but it’s intoxicating and her parents don’t know we drink wine together—not that they know much of anything else we do together. 

“Where did you guys meet?”

“Do we have to do this?”

She puts her chopsticks beside her plate and holds her hands under the table. “I’m not trying to be mean, Jake.”

“Yeah, well… I don’t know why you want to know the answers to those kinds of questions.”

“Because I want to know. I want to know everything about you and us and how we’re gonna get through this.”

“Are we not already through it?”


“Can’t it just be done? I said I’m sorry, and I’m trying to be right for you. We’re nineteen, we’re doing our best, and…”

Her eyes no longer belong to me; they are the night’s, and the night has become full of wondrous life. There are sirens beyond the calm of the windows, wailing like hungry cougars, allowing the world to bask in their reds and blues. 


There is a cruiser in the parking lot and soon there is another, and a third, and there are three officers walking through the doors of the sushi place. 

“Jacob Waller?”

“What the hell’s going on?”

“Just… wait.”

“Jake, what’s happening?”

“Mr. Waller, you’re under arrest for the murder of Cory Grant.”

Her eyes are wild as they take me, wild and sad and full of disbelief, and people are so beautiful in their mystery, aren’t they? Before you get to know them.

September 27, 2023 21:07

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E. B. Bullet
16:39 Sep 30, 2023

This is messy and beautiful and full of instinct, and yearning, and despair; it's guttural but still somehow mundane. I love the voice you've given Jake. I'm a little confused about who the two people are that are supposed to like each other. It kind of feels like Jake doesn't feel much for his girlfriend, and frankly doesn't feel much for anything, aside from a need for adrenaline LOL. If this is about Jake and his girlfriend not ending up together, then I'm not sure it brought that across. Is it about Jake and Ralph then? I can't quite...


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AnneMarie Miles
20:57 Oct 02, 2023

Wow, this was so imaginative that it felt like a dream at times. And poetic, with the rumination on people and their mysteries. For me, this whole paragraph was everything: "...tell me: have you ever felt it? Life is heaviest when you are trying to escape it; as we tucked ourselves away in the shadows, I could feel my heart pounding and here’s the truth: the wages of a normal life are idleness and regret, but the wages of an extraordinary one is death." It was cool to have the scenes jump around a bit, but I was getting a little lost with ...


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05:02 Sep 30, 2023

Thrilling and wonderful.


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