Blood dampens my sock. I fall, aimlessly grasping for the gash between my toes. My legs flail violently. My head hits a pipe. My body hits the ground, and I roll onto my back. The pit I now bleed in does not hold any comfort. It only holds pain.
That was ten years ago. I recall the pain as I scratch the scar on my scalp. I turn to Oscar, the closest thing I have to a friend, as he types a melody of clicks on his keyboard. He turns to me, a quizzical expression on his face.
“What?” He asks, still pushing letters and numbers into code without looking at the screen on which he is coding.
I sigh and turn away.
Me and Oscar have been roommates for several months, neither of us willing to admit to the other that we’re unable to pay the necessary bills. Cracking wallpaper covers the walls, and every once in a while, something that looks eerily similar to an African Screaming Cockroach skitters out from under a door.
I try to recall all the friends I had before I hit my head. I can’t. It doesn’t surprise me, as I can’t remember much of anything before then. These thoughts only serve to wound me. I need some fresh air. I need to take a walk.
My feet are already sore in my small shoes, pushing my toes together and chafing my heel. I continue to walk, through the streets, into a park, when I see something familiar. A face. His dark hair frames his rounded head, and he scrolls through something on his phone, muttering to himself. His hooked nose is draped over his top lip. His green sweater clings tight to his skin, and his beady eyes flick up and down his screen. Suddenly, he turns to me, and I can see the recognition in his expression. I can also see the horror there. I mirror his fright, afraid of something I can’t place. I’ve never felt this instinctual knowledge towards someone before. He gets up, turns away, hoping I won’t follow. I almost don’t. But then a guttural urge pulls me toward him. I tap him on the shoulder, leaving a drop of sweat where we touched.
“Do I...know you?” I ask, sure the answer is a yes, masked with a no.
He gulps, nods, and sits back down.
“Where do I know you from?”
“A place of despair,” he replies, his voice curt and brittle “And a place I doubt either of us wants to visit.”
“What do you mean?”
He does not respond. Instead, he shakes his head, stands up, and scurries away. He leaves confusion in his wake.
The darkness surrounding me blocks out the world. I am alone, me and a bench, floating in a black void. I scrunch my forehead, trying to grasp any hint of a memory in my brow, but nothing comes. I call out to him, but he does not respond. I scream for him, beg for him. The people around me look with fright and pity. I stand up, my head sinking into my hands. I stumble back home, racking my mind for more details. When I reach home, I ring the bell for our apartment, not wanting to go through the trouble of unlocking the door. Oscar buzzes me in, and I lay on my bed, feeling my scar as I fall awake.
My feet smash against the wall opposite me, but I barely feel the pain. I have a plan today, a plan that will begin with its most difficult step; waiting. I work on the assumption that the mystery man I met yesterday goes to that place in the park regularly. If I go there today, it’s not likely that he’ll go there again. I’ll go there tomorrow.
Nothing can describe the emotional pain of waiting. Knowing something you need intensely is not with you, and won’t be with you for a while. A feeling writhing inside you that tells you that that which you care for may be gone. Irreversibly, irretrievably gone. Stewing in my own anxiety, I wait out the day, going through the motions of meaningless tasks. This is the problem with having something worthwhile; you realize everything else is not.
The next morning is uneventful, to say the least. I eat breakfast. I drink coffee. I read the paper. I am numb to the world around me, because the world around me is cold. By the time evening comes, I’ve almost forgotten what I’ve been waiting for, as I’ve been so intent on waiting. But at seven on the dot, I walk down to the park, and sit on the bench. I keep my head down, lest he see my face and leave. I look around through the curtain of my straight brown hair, straining my eyes for a green sweater, a hooked nose, even a recognizable silhouette.
After a few hours, I have to admit to myself that he won’t come. Maybe I’ll try again tomorrow.
Cliché though it may be, that’s exactly when I see him; he looks completely the same as when I last saw him, wearing the same clothes, the same worried expression. I walk over to him quickly, grab on to his hand and shake it, using politeness as a guise to hold him here.
“How do you do, mister…?”
“Er...Philip Williams,” He says in a reluctant tone.
“Please, Mr. Williams, will you give me an inkling as to how we know each other?”
“I’m truly sorry, but I have no desire to relive one of the most traumatic experiences of my life. Do you realize how hard it is for me to talk to you? To see your face?” He says, suddenly angered
“No, I don’t. Why don’t you tell me?!” I urge him. “Explain why! Sir, I can’t remember a thing! I want, so badly, to understand.”
“No. No! Leave me alone!”
And with that, he runs off into the night.
Back home, my computer beckons. I have a name, and with the internet and the information it holds, that's all I need. For now, at least. A simple Google search uncovers nothing, as Philip Williams is a common name. I instead search Google Images, look for pictures of his face, and click on the source. Forty five minutes of searching yields nothing but a few social media accounts that haven’t been updated for years. I do not give up. I look over all these accounts, observing details in the backs of images. I finally see a picture of him that I can get some information from; an image of him and his mother. She’s tagged in the description. I move over to her account, scrolling through photos of food and children, until I see an image of a pit. The title of the post reads, “This pit has put a child in the hospital. Help us get it filled in.” The pit looks familiar. I feel the same guttural recognition as when I first saw Philip. My eyes come across a pipe, caked with blood. My scalp burns. I close my eyes, remembering the moment my head made contact with that very same pipe. I replay it again and again in my memory. My head hits the pipe, and I’m falling. The pipe hits my head, I hear the crack, and I hear a cry for help, feel a hand on my shoulder. And I’m falling, falling, until I hear the cry, and I’m brought back to the edge of the pit, and I feel the hand, and it’s Philip’s, and I fall into the pit, and I want the pain to stop, and there’s a cry, and Philip grabs my shoulder--!
I open my eyes, rub the bridge of my nose gently.
It was Philip. Philip pushed me into the pit.
I run down to the park. I know he’s still there, I can feel it, just like I can feel the hand on my shoulder, pressing down. I see him, standing, looking forward, looking towards me. He grimaces as he sees me, but he doesn’t back away. I run up to him and slam my fist into his cheek. He falls, wheezing, blood dripping down his lip, and he looks up at me, apology drawn on his face. But not the apology I’m looking for. His mouth opens, and I know it before he says it, but it crushes me all the same.
“I didn’t do it. You jumped in yourself.”
My knees give out, and I crumble and cry and choke, and my hands shake with anger and sadness and confusion, and my eyes sear with pain, almost as much as my heart, because I know it, I know, I know it’s the truth, and I’m falling again, falling and falling, and my head doesn’t hit anything, it’s being hit, and I can’t take it anymore, because I’ve been falling for so long, and it won’t stop, and I’m still falling and falling and falling, and I know that if I ever reach solid ground, I won’t skip a beat.