TW: Suicide, Self-harm, Mental Health
"I hate you."
The words were pulled from my lips and thrown into her heart like a dagger. Then came the screams. I sat down on our old navy blue sofa, one that creaked loudly with age. There's a twinge of pain when I hear it, knowing I was the one who caused these fractures. All the years of playing hard, throwing myself onto it, and bouncing with joy. I remember rough-housing with my dad. Jumping from the couch knowing he would catch me. There is pain now, knowing that the joy I felt was selfish.
My mother cries through her screams, standing across from me in our living room. "Just leave!" She yells. "If you hate me this much then just leave!" The heavy sigh that leaves my chest spurs her ever on. My eyes fall to the floor and I let her keep going. I want to cry out, grabbing her by the shoulders and shaking her until we both fall to the floor. 'No! Mama, please don't leave me!' I want to yell. 'I want to stay! I want to be in your arms again just like when I was small!' But my mouth never moves and my eyes stay down in some kind of cowardly submission. I sit there for a few more minutes before my mother rushes out of the room. I cannot bring myself to follow her. Sobs echoed through the house, a home once filled with many people. Now it is only the two of us.
I am far away from that old forgotten place, sitting in a stairwell. My head rests against the stark white concrete walls, ones with a harsh line of cobalt blue. I stare into it, letting my mind swim through a sea of thoughts. The voice on the other end of the line crackles electronically and the sound echoes throughout the space. Noises of the road and traffic spill out from around her comforting words. She tells me she'll be there soon, and that I shouldn't do anything until she gets there. There is experience in her words. She's been down this route before. Of course, I feel guilty telling her. I never in my life wanted her to worry like this. Not about me. It feels selfish to tell her, a grown woman with a job and bills to pay, anything about what's been happening to me because I know how she reacts. It's selfish of me to say something knowing she'd come rushing to my aid. Knowing she'd offer a place to stay in her already crowded home. And oh how selfish am I, an unemployed art school dropout, to let her help. I sigh softly and tell her I won't do anything as blood beads on my cheeks. It almost looks pink against the blue walls.
"I think I'm cursed."
I speak quietly as she moves up from behind me. She sits down on the swing, looking out on the derelict playground with me. Technically it's illegal to be on the playground at night but we've never been caught. The setting sun sits brightly in the distance, surrounded by puffy clouds. Streaks of golden and pink light trail across the purple sky.
"Yeah. I think I'm cursed to always say shit I don't mean. Like the universe itself has decided I'm never allowed to be genuine." The colors of sunset stretch across the field. Warm oranges and deep pinks dance across our elementary school, now closed down for the summer. Yellow and white flowers sway gently in the wind, dancing in the light. Like fish slowly diving into the water, orange clouds wrap around the setting sun.
Sarah is silent for a moment, looking out on the same meadow as me, before speaking up. "Do you really believe that?"
My nail rests against my cheek, dully rubbing on the scabs I've picked off. Sarah had given me a wet wipe to clean my bloody face not more than five minutes ago. Yet one of my scabs still slowly bleeds. I used to come to this playground with my parents. My dad and I would run up the rock wall and jump from monkey bar to monkey bar. We would climb to the very top of the castle and when we got to the top, I would forget it was made of bright blue plastic. In my mind, I would be atop a real palace of stone and wood. Now the playground stays empty, and no kids want to play here so late. "Sometimes I forget there are kids in this town. It doesn't seem like there's any more youth here."
Sarah turns to me, and I can feel her eyes on my skin. The pinkish-red marks burned like fire under her gaze. "Do you really believe you're cursed? Like, do you actually think the universe just decided to make you disingenuine? Just because?" Like a knife being plunged straight into my chest, her words stung. I was completely and utterly defenseless against the stone-cold power of logic and reason. No shield nor sword came with my lies. I sigh, resting my heavy head in my arms "I wish I smoked more."
I close the car door behind me as she clicks her seatbelt. We both take a long deep breath before she turns the key in the ignition—the blue light of the evening colors our faces. Her navy honda civic rumbles before starting up. My mom gave her a little glass angel charm for Christmas, one she made when Sarah first bought her car. It still hangs on her mirror five years later. I think I left mine back at college, though I couldn't tell you exactly where.
"I wish people were easier to talk to." I mumble, tugging my seatbelt to a more comfortable position on my chest.
"No, you don't. You wish you found it easier to speak."
My eyes shot to hers. They were cold as steel. "Why are you being such an asshole?"
"Because you're not acting right!" Her voice shot through the glass windows and out into the parking lot. I was taken so far aback, I nearly fell out of the door. "You haven't said a single thing you believe the entire time I've been here! Hell, you haven't since we came back for summer! This is not the person I grew up with! I don't have a clue what happened to you, but you've changed and you've changed badly." Her voice shakes to the end of her speech, faltering as tears begin to form in her eyes.
Rain begins to pour on the hood of the car. Large dark blue forests surround us as we drive through Ohio backroads. Occasionally an owl will swoop through the treeline and pick up some kind of nocturnal rodent. I remember seeing a bear here with my dad once. It was a pretty far distance away, but we still stopped the car and got really quiet. That was one of the first times I got really scared growing up. I sigh, leaning back in the black leather car seat. "I'm fine it's just-"
"Just the curse?"
She shook her head, swerving off the road to park near the woods. She loudly unclicked her seatbelt and turned in her seat. "You're doing this to yourself. There's no such thing as cosmic or godly or karmic curses that will suddenly make you stop talking and communicating with people you care about. At least I've never heard about any of that!" Her face was glowing a neon blue from her LED dashboard. I stared into her face, but not her eyes. Anything but those. My gaze danced over the freckles on her face, connecting them with the blue light and pretending they were stars. Anything but looking into her eyes.
"You know what I have heard about? People who ignore their needs and wants and desires so much that they forget how to talk with others." Her hand shot out, turning down whatever 80s classic was playing. The rain pattered down on her car much heavier now, hitting the thin roof hard. The clouds were so thick in the dark blue sky, it almost looked like a storming ocean. "Do you still love your mother?" I nod, quicker than I could speak, and she takes this as fact. "Then why did you tell her you to hate her?"
"I... I just- she's hard to talk to."
"Why do you keep lying?"
My dad always told me how much I resembled him. His tone was always so joyous and proud when he said it. It was always nice to hear since everyone always said he was a stand-up guy. He was the type of guy to always cook for all my friends, at a cookout or otherwise. Our home was always open for sleepovers as long as he was in town. He'd set up our little tents in the living room or even the backyard if it was warm enough. My father loved the ocean, everything about it. He said it made sense that the most popular color was blue because that was the color of the great sea.
His passing wasn't particularly tragic to anyone else. He was a much older man and had a pretty bad family history of heart failure. Maybe it's selfish of me to see my dad's death as a tragedy but I do. He died a few weeks after I turned 20, before I could drink a cold beer with him on the porch. He died before I graduated and became the first person in his family to receive a degree. But he didn't get to see, so I suppose I stopped caring. My father never said what was on his mind. He was the type of man to bottle things up and never address them ever. He wanted everyone to be happy, to be fine with everything that was going on. His issues never should've been anyone else's problem. And he always said I was just like him.
"I don't know."
My vision blurs for a moment. Her gaze almost feels wrong, like I'm not even supposed to be looking at her. Not like there was something so terrible waiting for me when I look up, more that no matter how hard I try I can't look at her. I feel like, for a moment, I'm back in the car with my dad and we're facing down the bear. I feel her steel eyes raking over me like she would tear me in half with her logical blade.
"Can you tell me something honestly right now? Do you want to be better? Do you want to live a life he would have wanted you to live, even though he's not in it?"
I feel comfort in my delusion, a sign it's working quite well. There is something in the lie that takes me back, it takes me back to my dad and the way his face would go red when he wanted to cry. I found it fine, normal even, to want to cry and never do. Perhaps it would be wrong to call this delusion a dream, an ambition, or an ideal I hold close to my chest. Maybe I just want to hold my feelings without impunity. To tell a lie about how I feel without ever hurting anyone. I want it to be normal for mom to just not get it. She never got my dad and I know she'd never get me. But I love her. I love her.
"...I don't know. I guess?"
"Are you cursed? Or are you too scared to say what you really mean?"
I stay silent and still, washed in blue light. The only sound between us is the rain, falling quickly and hard on the tin roof. There are creatures in the woods that watch us, two gods in a magic machine. Two gods sit silently in the universe waiting for the other to strike. Logic against dreams. Dreams against squirming, red hot pain. I stare at the stars that glow on her cheeks as I feel rain pour down my own.
And if I am a god, a god of dreams, then why am I still cursed to lie? If I am a god of dreams then all my fantasies should come true in all the ways I want? I should be in my bed, waiting to feel something worthwhile. I should be feeling nothing I don't want to while all my friends and family smile in blissful ignorance. But they aren't smiling. Now I sit in a car on an offroad in Ohio with my friend of fifteen years and we both cry. My godlike powers do nothing to stop me from sobbing, from staying away from her eyes. Maybe I'm not the god of dreams. Maybe I am a god of nothing. Nothing but myself.
"I don't know if I'm cursed or if something genuinely just wrong with me. I know it's not realistic but-"
I want to live a happy life, but I want to live a life that he's in. I miss him every day and each passing moment gets harder without him.
"- I guess I just never wanted people to worry about me!" I heaved as sobs were pulled from my chest. My whole body began to shake. I grab at the seatbelt, which still keeps me pressed to my seat, and tug myself free. The rain seemed to grow louder even though it was starting to mist. "I guess I am scared! I'm still scared!"
I'm afraid to be vulnerable to my mother because I know I remind her of dad.
The blue light pours into the car, illuminating us in celestial grandness. The stars on Sarah's cheeks grow ever brighter as she writhes in rage. "You're not hurting me by asking for help! The only thing that hurts is hearing you so clearly lie to me about how you feel! People wouldn't offer to help if they didn't want to! I don't help you because I feel so obliged! I help because I love you!" The god of logic swings down, steely sword cracking through the dreamer's shell of delusion. Moats of light and colors stream from my broken exterior and bright pink blood pours from my cheeks.
I think the closest thing I can come to a hobby is addiction. I find people younger than me alienating and my own youth unrecognizable after so long.
"You drove an hour and a half out to pick me up in the middle of the night just because you loved me?" My voice grew shrill, begging her to tell me she didn't care. She didn't need me, the most deadbeat soul to ever grace this shitty midwest town. Defiance fills me with braveness and my vision snaps up. Stars give way to void, empty space between her cheeks and eyes with nothing but swirling purple bags. Then light. Two suns, brighter than any star in any galaxy, shine down on my face filling me with fear. A dear in headlights or perhaps a child in a car, waiting for a bear to cross the road.
"Yes! Deeply! You're my friend and I don't want you to kill yourself!"
The shattering of candy glass fills the air. Two gods sit alone in a navy blue car in the middle of a forest. Every creature in the world watches them in their magic machine and waits to get their feast. One god stands, victorious but not proud, over the other. They are surrounded by starlight, rainbows, and energy that swirls to create a storm. Dreams never die, they are only set free. Two human beings sit together with tears pouring down their cheeks as hard and fast as the rain outside.
I don't think I'm cursed. I think I'm scared. Or was. Or trying not to be.
My friend Sarah's arms are wrapped around me, a wretched sobbing creature. But she holds me tight and warms me just as my mother did when I was young. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry I hurt you." She holds the body of a dying god of deception, a cursed and writhing form. Our hearts beat in unison and in some quiet moments, sometimes it feels like we are one and the same.
"It's ok. Let it out."
Then came the screams.
I love you.
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Intense was the word I was going to use and I see Wendy beat me to it :) I think I'd also say surreal. I do like the link between gods and men, and the line drawn between the divine and mundane acts like sitting in a car. The closest thing I came to a hobby is addiction - great line :) Good work, Casper - a good read ... R
This was intense, Casper. A very thought-provoking look at our expectations and results, in the light of the scripts we live. There were so many excellent turns of phrase in this, as well - some particular favorites: -Like fish slowly diving into the water, orange clouds wrap around the setting sun. -Dreams never die, they are only set free. - Two human beings sit together with tears pouring down their cheeks as hard and fast as the rain outside. I really enjoyed this "something different" as a take on the prompt: someone feeling they we...
Thank you so much for you comments and your welcome!! <3