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American Romance Sad

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

Alec K. Garcia 

Oxytocin 

    Sometimes the worst people make us feel the best. Even if it’s short lived. In the true spirit of an addict, a person will crave another, all aware that it will only result in destruction. 

    The lights were low in the small, hole-in-the wall bar. Like the rest of the city, its product was overpriced, the people were awful, but they held open mic nights for poetry. Just as this art form attracted some of the city slum’s finest, it also attracted the bottom of the barrell. 

“Oh, fuck!” Abner shouted as his cigarette burned his finger tips. 

    “The hell are you doing over there? Wake up, Abby,” the bartender said as she chuckled.

    “Two more Jameson. And a single cig, please,” Abner told the bartender. 

    “What are we smoking?” the woman asked.

    “Honestly anything, darling.”

    She poured two shots of the Irish whiskey, and grabbed him a cigarette. Abner took the smoke and placed it in the corner of his mouth. 

    “A light please, darling.” 

    “Light your own fucking cig,” she said as she threw a pack of matches at him. 

    Abner sat at the bar and sucked down his liquor, while an older man on the stage read poetry off note cards. The stage consisted of two blue-wooden pallets stacked on top of each other, with a microphone stand stationed in front of it.

    “In spite of myself,the insidious mastery of song betrays me back,” the man read on.

    People should read their own fucking poetry, Abner proceeded to ash his cigarette while maintaining a discreet smile. 

    “Fuck it, another Jameson,” Abner gestured his empty shot glass to the bartender.

    “My manhood is cast down the flood of remembrance, I weep like a child, for the past.” The crowd snapped their fingers as the man took a bow, and began making his way toward the bar. The host stepped up to the microphone. 

    “Our next poet is a regular here, and is always exceptional. A tier above the rest, a local verbalist, snaps for Abner!” Snaps and cheers emerged from the crowd, as Abner took his last shot, and ashed his cigarette in the glass. 

    “Asshole, we have ashtrays!” yelled the bartender. Abner laughed it off. Arriving at the mic, Abner hugged the host and removed the microphone from its stand. 

    “Thank you all, my dearest of friends.” He sighed deeply into the mic. “I can assure you that you will be listening to my own work this evening. I won’t recite Piano by D.H. Lawrence, or anything from Poe, or E.E. Cummings, or fucking Robert Frost. I’m here to work this shit out in real time.” Abner chuckled. The man who had just left the stage stared at him. 

    “Take a fucking risk, pal!” Abner shouted to the man, who continued to frown. Quiet chuckles and whispers scurried around the room. Abner cackled. 

    “But I will reference Bukowski, in that there is a Bluebird in my heart, and tonight I will let him sing. There’s your poetic foreplay.” Abner coughed, clearing his throat, and began reading a poem from his notebook.

“As the world burns,

I reside in cowardice.

I, too, am burning. 

I am overwhelmed, I am terrified. 

The smoke is too dense.

The flames are rapid. 

The heat is beginning to devour my being,

It has nearly become comfortable.

The sparks and embers have become my kin. 

Soon, my surroundings will destroy every fiber of my being,

Making rubble of my existence. 

Still, I am without passion. 

I gaze into the distance,

And I spot a tree. 

A tree with leaves so green,

The contrast is beyond stunning. 

And with this tree arrived whispers of empathy,

Creating a compelling euphony. 

And I realize-

I must survive.

I will crush the embers with each step I take across the hills

And through the valleys of hellfire-

For You.

My heart no longer knows fear.

My mind acknowledges no evil.

Your heart is the only adversary worthy of my demise.”

    Abner’s eyes watered, as snaps and cheers of excitement came from the crowd. 

    “Thank you people so much. I want to stay but I think I have to go see a beautiful woman. You folks were great, goodnight.” Abner wiped his eyes and began heading for the door. 

    The host ran to the stage.

    “One more time for Abner, everyone!” the host exclaimed, as the room whistled, cheered, and snapped. 

    Abner walked out of the bar, and made his way up the street. His apartment was only a block away from the bar, but still he broke out into a sprint, unable to waste a moment. 

    He ran up the stairs, and fumbled his keys when opening the door. Stopping for a second, he could hear moaning, and giggling from inside the room. He unlocked the door and opened it quickly. On the couch was his fiance and another man, both undressed. 

“Fuck, what the hell is this?” the man said. He turned his head to Abner as he struggled to put his shirt on, “I’m not fucking paying for this.” He stood up quickly and walked out the door. Abner stood next to the doorway, expressionless, with tears collecting on his chin. 

“You said this wouldn’t happen again.” Abner said softly. She ignored him for a moment as she put her clothes back on. She took a deep breath, and acknowledged him. 

“How the fuck do you expect us to make money? How do you think we’re going to afford to live here?” She shouted. 

“Not like this… how can you do this?” Abner said softly. 

“Because we need money. He was going to pay me. You contribute nothing. You go out, you drink, you read poetry. You sit here and sleep, you don’t clean shit, you’re fucking broke.”

“Danny, you know I’m going to sell my book soon. And then we won’t have to worry about anything at all. We’ll have money, we can get married. You don’t have to do this,” Abner spoke with pain in his voice. 

“You’ve been saying that for years,” she said dismissively. 

“Do you still love me?” 

“What kind of question even is that?” She looked down at the floor. 

“I love you, Daniella. And I can’t even imagine making love with someone besides you.” 

“I’m not making love with them. That’s not what this is.” 

“So you're just fucking other guys. That’s your excuse? This is okay because you don’t fall in love with each guy?”

“I’m doing this so you and I don’t end up homeless. You don’t have a job!”

“So this is for me? You are having sex with other men, for me?” 

“Not anymore. I’m leaving. This is not worth it. You’re not worth it anymore.” She stood and walked to their bedroom, closing the door behind her. 

Three months passed by. The past due notices sitting on the coffee table lied beneath the eviction notice, all of which had been stamped with the hot ends of cigarettes. Next to them was a crossed out carving in the wooden panel, which read Danny and Abby. The apartment was littered with dry bottles, cigarette butts, and crumbled papers. There was a refrigerator that no longer held food, and a bed that no longer held a woman.

On the floor was a passed out, day-drunk Abner. He sat up, and released a groan. Not any ordinary groan, but the groan of a man who had been beaten down by reality. Looking down, his watch read 7PM. He stood up, and tripped over an empty liquor bottle, falling and hitting his head on the edge of the coffee table. He lied on the ground moaning for several minutes. Finally, he sat up and looked at his bloody hand which he had been holding against his head. He turned and looked at the corner of the coffee table. 

“You better fucking kill me next time.” 

Concussed and still half drunk, he bandaged his head, and then made his way to his favorite piece of shit bar, where he could read his descending pieces of poetry. 

He entered the bar and approached the host. 

“Jesus, you look terrible, what happened to your dome?” The host asked. 

“It really doesn’t matter. Look, can I just- can I just get up next?” Abner stammered. 

“Yeah man, sure. I hope you’re taking care of yourself Abby.” 

The poet on the stage finished up, and the host waved him on.

“I don’t need to introduce this guy, please welcome Abner to the stage!” Weak cheers and few snaps came from the crowd. Abner pulled the mic from the stand and gazed at the group.

“Thanks for having me here tonight. I haven’t been well lately. I, uh… I need this. I wrote this poem… I don’t know when I wrote this poem. It doesn’t have a happy ending.” The room was quiet. Abner swallowed nervously. 

“I stand out on the ledge

And I scream

And shout 

Enraged, a primal howl

I curse God

‘I hate you!’ 

And I mean that sincerely 

You watch me suffer a divine suffering

From my howls emerge whimpers

I stare into the abyss 

And cry 

And I drink.

Another to erase my pain 

Another to erase your name.

It’s been said that time heals

But my wounds grow with each second that I live

They have become infected 

With grief, desire, pain, and hatred  

I resent each day that I wake again

With each step I take

I see less light

At the end of the tunnel

The flame that guided my heart has burned out

I will remain in darkness forever.”    

A few snaps came from tables around the room; most of the people looked frightened. 

“Thank you for your time.” Abner struggled to place the mic in the stand and stepped off the pallet, walking toward the bar. He sat down and made eye contact with the bartender. 

“Really?” She asked. 

“What?”

“You’ve looked awful for months, you don’t talk to anyone anymore. What even was that piece you just read? You must have the absolute largest reserve of self pity out of anyone I’ve ever met,” she said, her words piercing him. Abner couldn’t keep looking at her. 

“Dude, you’re bleeding from your head right now.” 

“Do you have any bandaids?” Abner chuckled. 

“You need stitches. Go to the hospital.” 

“I can’t afford to go to the hospital.” 

“You can’t afford the free drinks we give you.” 

A man approached the bar. He was well dressed compared to the rest of the establishment. He grabbed Abner by the shoulders. 

“There’s the man!” He exclaimed to Abner. 

“Why are you here, Craig?” 

“Why are you sitting in a bar bleeding, and telling depressing bullshit poetry to strangers, when we just sold your god damn book?” 

“Now is really not the time to fuck with me, man. If you can’t tell, I’m not okay.” 

“Get your shit together. Why don’t you answer the phone? We have money to make.” 

“You’re serious?” 

“Abner, I wouldn’t track you down  and come find you in this hole in the wall to bust your balls. I got you a fucking deal.”

Abner’s eyes lit up. He jumped off the stool and hugged Craig. 

“You don’t know how badly I’ve needed this,” Abner said while beginning to sob. 

“I think I do, now hop off of me, don’t get blood on my shirt. Let’s take a shot,” Craig said to Abner, smiling. 

“Cynthia!” Abner shouted to the bartender. “This is Craig, he’s the one who’s helping me sell my book. Give me one second. I’ll be right back,” Abner ran through the bar to the side exit, and stepped out in the alleyway. 

“Yes!!!” Abner threw punches into the empty air. “Finally, fucking something!!! Fuck everybody else!” Abner cried into the night.

“I gotta find Daniella. I can show her I’m not the man she thinks I am. It’s all gonna be okay. I knew it, I knew my shit was good. I just needed people to recognize that.” He smiled while the tears drenched his face. 

The door behind him creaked again, and he heard it smack its frame as it fell. He turned around and saw a man staring him down that he did not recognize. 

“Hey, man” Abner didn’t pay attention to him. The man continued to watch him.

“Do I know you?” Abner was confused.  

“Are you serious?” The stranger didn’t break his gaze. 

“Listen, do you have a smoke I can get off you, man?” 

“To hell with your smoke. You’ve been shitting on me, and everyone else that comes to this place for a long time. And all of a sudden you get a break? No, fuck that, man. That is not cool at all. Why are you of all people rewarded for being a scumbag?” The man’s voice was shaking. 

“Are you the- you’re the DH Lawrence guy?” 

“Yeah, you remember making fun of me for reading some of my favorite poetry? Telling me to take a risk?” 

“I just meant write your own shit man, no hard feelings.” 

“We’ll I’m gonna take a fucking risk now. Fuck you, Abner.” 

The man reached into his pocket. 

“What are you gonna do? Huh, piano-man?” Abner cackled. 

The man retrieved a gun from his pocket, and pointed it at Abner. 

“My name is John, you asshole,” he pulled the trigger, and a bullet hit Abner in the chest. Abner fell to the ground, clutching his torso. He gasped for breath. 

“Th… thank… thank you,” Abner whispered as he dragged himself toward the building, and laid himself against the brick wall. He sputtered and groaned. John ran down the alley, turned off and disappeared. Abner remained stationary while he coughed up dark blood and struggled to breath. Craig came running out of the side door. Blood poured from his wound. 

“No, no, Abby what the fuck happened?” 

“It’s a beautiful thing, buddy,” Abner said softly, as he began to fade out of consciousness. 

“What are you talking about? This is bad, this is fucking bad.” Craig kneeled and put his jacket against Abner’s chest, applying pressure. 

“Someone help! Somebody fucking call someone! Anyone?” Craig yelled. 

“Daniella… Daniella, she will never know. And that’s what makes this so perfect. Don’t ever tell her,” Abner gasped, and let out a soft chuckle. 

September 17, 2022 03:17

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2 comments

Charlie Murphy
18:28 Sep 19, 2022

Great story! Tragic ending.

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Alec Garcia
18:47 Sep 20, 2022

Thank you!

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