The Familiar Pain of Not Knowing

Submitted into Contest #213 in response to: Start or end your story with a character receiving a hug or words of comfort.... view prompt


Drama Friendship Sad

This story contains themes or mentions of mental health issues.

It’s 9:00am and I have spent the whole morning and the whole night getting the best sleep of my life. The kind where you wake up and your eyes feel light and your muscles are completely loose. The kind where you know that no matter what happens between this moment of awakening and the next moment of rest, there is nothing you can’t do. I’ve woken up feeling like the most fortunate person in the world. I slowly open my eyes and and immediately notice a bright, beautiful white light that permeates the room. I take a moment to bask myself in this gentle morning glow. I begin to sit up in my bed, and stretch what feels like every muscle fiber in my body from the tips of my fingers, to the soles of my feet. I look around and take in the view. I see some used clothes I need to put away, scattered on the floor. I notice the blankets on the bed that are still mostly neet and tidy despite the long night of sleep. Usually I toss and turn so much in my sleep that the sheets and blankets are a complete mess when I awake. This time around they were almost perfect, with barely a wrinkle on them. I could still feel the sheets tucked tightly under the bed, hugging my feet with a compassionate heaviness. The bed I slept on was warm, so warm, and softer than silk. To my left is the window I kept open last night. From it blew a gentle, calm and cold breeze that filled the room and my body. The crisp air paired nicely with the bed that I had been warming with my body heat all night. There were no nightmares either, which I tend to have a lot of. Last night I only dreamt of living peacefully in a lush flower field. I have never felt so satisfied in my life. In this moment, I am at peace. This feeling that the morning has gifted me is so wonderful that I’m tempted to slip back under the covers and envelope myself in my perfect sleep for just a bit longer.

For reasons I myself don’t understand, I get up anyway. After all I should start being productive, right? That’s the reason why people rest, so they can continue to work. Just then I felt my heart beat a little bit faster. I put on come clothes and looked out the window, enjoying the sweet morning air for one last moment. It rained pretty hard last night, but somehow all of that rain and the clouds that produced it were replaced by tranquil blue skies and the bright yellow sun. The rain that was pounding the roads had been evaporated by the heat of the sun’s rays, while the plants and trees were still heavy with a fresh dew that dripped onto the Earth’s soil. After taking it all in, I close the window and leave my room. I shower, eat, and get ready for the day. I wasn’t scheduled to work at my job today so I’m not sure what I should do with myself. I usually work about 6 days a week which leaves me with very little time to indulge in a personal life. I’m a barista and in order to make a living off of it, I tend to come in to work every time there’s a call out. I’ve looked for better jobs, but I haven’t found any that I could get without a lot of time and effort. So for now, this is how I get by. Today however, there are no responsibilities to speak of. I tell myself I’ll think of something productive to do in a bit. For now I’ll just make some breakfast and watch some TV. Sounds fun enough to me. My heart starts beating a little bit faster. I walk over to the couch in my living room. It’s very comfortable, and the cushions make me sink right in. I always feel like I’ll have a lot of fun hanging out on this couch. The show I’m watching is so entertaining that it makes it easy for me to keep my mind off of anything I don’t want to think about. Still, I don’t want to just sit at home and do nothing. So as I continue to watch TV, I try to think of what I’ll do next. Nothing comes to mind. I find myself unable to finish breakfast.

Again, my heart starts beating a little bit faster. At this point my chest is starting to hurt a little. I’ve been awake for a awhile now but I still haven’t done anything that’s worth doing. I bet my friends and coworkers wouldn’t be wasting away like this on their day off. I’m such a loser. Outside of work, outside of making enough money to feed myself, what good am I? Suddenly, I don’t find the TV interesting anymore. In fact I feel like turning it off and never watching it again. I’m not sure how much time has passed but as I’m still on this damn couch; I get so upset thinking about this that I skipped lunch today even though I’m starving. My hunger grows, and at some point the rapid beating of my heart and the hunger in my stomach mesh to where I can’t tell the difference between the two feelings anymore. I continue to run through so many scenarios in my mind. I think about all of the small mistakes that I’ve made in my life and get embarrassed about them, even if they happened years ago. I think about how well other people my age are doing, and I wonder if they look down on me. I wonder if I will always work the same job for the rest of my life. Will I ever be able to do anything more? If I did do something more, what would it even be? I’m stuck in a small town because I’m too poor to move out. My parents wanted me gone a few years ago when I turned 18. They said I was an adult now and they didn’t want to take care of me anymore. So I moved out to the middle of nowhere to the only place I could afford. I hate it here so much. Or rather I hate the person I am here. I’m such a failure. Will I be here forever? It’s such a beautiful day, why can’t I just be grateful and enjoy it? 

“Why? Why? Why? What’s the point of any of this? I’m never gonna amount to anything anyway.” I say outloud to myself, while grabbing my head with both of my hands, my fingers roughly running back and forth across my scalp. I take my hands off for a moment and notice a few strands of hair in my palms. I stare at them for a moment, sigh, and throw them on the ground.

 I feel like I’m losing my mind. I never talk to myself except for when I get worked up like this. One moment I think about how everyone in my life surely hates me, the next I’m thinking about how they probably don’t care about me at all, one way or the other. This makes me go from hating people, to just feeling lonely in a short amount of time. My chest gets even tighter and it feels hot.

“NO!” I scream out of nowhere.

Why did I do that? Why did I scream like that? I wasn’t in pain, but it just came out. I hope no one heard me, because I don’t want to try to explain it. I try to calm down and continue to watch TV. Some time passes.

“AH!” I did it again, losing some of my breath.

 This goes on for what only felt like a few minutes but then I realize that somehow, someway it’s been hours since I’ve sat down and watched TV. The remanence of  my breakfast is still on the counter. I’ve done literally nothing with my day. It’s so shameful because I know I woke up with the ability to do anything I wanted to do today and this was how I spent it. My chest is starting to hurt so much that I’m grabbing it with my hand, trying desperately to stop my heart from beating so damn fast. I want it to end but I don’t know what to do about it. I’m too embarrassed to tell anyone. I decide to go for a walk to clear my mind, but the guilt of not having done anything today follows me the whole time I’m out. I do feel a little better, because at least I’m actually doing something. I’m still ashamed that this was the best thing I could think to do. 

“Maybe I should have called a friend or something?” I say to myself. “On second thought they’d probably be too busy.” 

I sigh and walk around for a bit longer and the pain eases slightly as I accept what happened today. Of course, this isn’t the first time I’ve had a day like this. Every day where I have time to myself I get like this. I wish I could change. It’s just so hard when I don’t know what to do with myself. The day is mostly over now. The dew on the trees has evaporated, and the ground that was scorched by the sun is getting cold. The bright blue sky is now a golden red as night prepares to wash over everything I see. This morning, there wasn’t a cloud in sight, but now I can see them everywhere. Dark gray dashes illuminated by the falling sun. Today has been so beautiful, I wished I could have enjoyed it a bit better. My chest looses it’s tension and my hands learn to relax. Tired out from my own thoughts, I decide to walk home. A few cars speed past me on the way there. They look so cool going that fast. I wonder if I could touch one if I stick my hand out really quickly. I slowly walk to the edge of the sidewalk. 

“On second thought, would it really be so bad if I just–”

 Just then a friend of mine calls me. It scares me a bit and I take a few steps back. I answer.

“Yo this is Brian!” He exclaimed. There seems to be a lot of music and people in the background. Maybe he’s at a party?

Brian and I have been friends for years, and I don’t want to act sad and worry him.

“Hey man what’s up?” I ask as cheerfully as I can.

“Well me and some of the others from the friend group are at a bar in town. We know that you work all the time, but if you’re free, come hang out!” 

I realized then that I didn’t even try to talk to anyone, or do anything to make my day better. This made me feel worse about myself. All I had to do was just talk to someone, it seems so easy now but sometimes I find it impossible. I’m too depressed to accept his offer.

“I’m sorry man, I’m not feeling too good, maybe another time.”

“Oh no! I hope you’re not sick man. Tell you what, I can come bring you some medicine or something if you want. It must be tough always doing everything on your own.” He says with genuine compassion and understanding.

I try so hard to push it down, but sure enough tears begin to form around my bottom eyelids and my throat starts to hurt. It takes all I have to stay calm.

“What? But what about hanging with your friends?” I ask him, genuinely curious.

“Bro they’re OUR friends, dummy.” He laughs “ And besides without you it’d only be half as fun anyway. So again is there anything I can get you?”

Some tears fall from my face, but I think I’m able to sound normal on the phone.

“I…I don’t know man.” I tell him.

“Hey is something wrong?” He asks.

“That obvious?”

“Well a bit” he laughs.

“The truth is, I don’t know how to explain it.”

I pace around a bit trying to compose myself.

“I see…okay don’t force yourself to say anything, just know I’m there for you. Also just know that whatever it is, you are an incredible person. I can’t begin to count all of the things we have been through. You are the strongest person I know and I look up to you in a lot of ways. Whatever pain your going through, just know I’ll be here to listen.” He encourages me.

The pain is still there, it still hurts so bad. But it somehow feels manageable, like even if it never went away I’d still be able to go on. Moments like this might be enough of a reason to suffer through the pain I felt today. I think they might be enough to suffer through every day.

“Tell you what, I wasn’t really doing anything today anyway. What bar is it?” I ask him with optimism. 

“Down on first street, but don’t push yourself.” he says.

“It’s alright man, I’m feeling a lot better now, and I miss talking with you guys.” I tell him, the cheeks on my face getting warm while I say it. 

“Okay, we’re excited to see you! Let me know if you need anything when you get here.” He says excitedly. I can’t help but feel good when I here his words. 

“I guess it’s okay to not know everything.” I accidentally say out loud.

“Wait what?” Brian asks.

“Ah nothing, thanks for calling, Brian. I really needed to hear that.”

I hang up the phone and make my way to first street. Along the way I think about how I had no idea this would happen, but I’m glad it did.

September 01, 2023 18:28

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Mara Rouge
21:05 Sep 06, 2023

Wow, this is beautifully written. Emotions are so real. Great story, Jonah!


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Daizy Hernandez
04:45 Sep 04, 2023

I resonated a lot with this story. I've gone through so many days feeling like this when in all honesty resting for a day isn't all that bad. This story is very well written and even if a person hasn't gone through this, you explained it very well enough for them to feel what the character is feeling. Good job Jonah!


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Brittany Robles
01:50 Sep 04, 2023

This story is so real and it made me kinda sad to realize all the hard things I went through as I related to the character


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J. D. Lair
01:38 Sep 04, 2023

Good friends like this are to be cherished. May we be those kind of friends too. Life is tough enough as it is. People shouldn’t have to walk it alone. Welcome to Reedsy!


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