Nine postcards in a white room

Submitted into Contest #84 in response to: Write a story that spans exactly a year and takes place in a single room.... view prompt

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Contemporary Fiction Sad

June- Ronald’s perspective

It's been a week since Darnell collapsed off his roof to his untimely death. Who knew setting down new shingles in the sweltering heat could be dangerous? 

This is why I'm writing to you bedridden in his white room, not from a degenerative disease unless you consider this all-encompassing intense sadness to be one. Loss of appetite, no showers, no work; every day folds into one another as one contiguous big nothing. Because Darnell is gone. Because the acerbic wit, playful banter, chaotic driving, and laughable cooking is gone. The only living monument to him is a shrine with candid pictures and his tiny mountain of rare basketball trading cards. 

I’m kind of lying about the first statement, second paragraph because June is physically writing the postcard while I struggle through each word in real-time. Her and Darnell dated for seven years up to the time of his fall. She called several times to no response. Now, she's at my north-facing window jotting down squeezing everything I utter on these comically large postcards. 

It sucks that it takes a tragedy for me to reach out to you again but burnt bridges can be cleaned up and tossed for a fresh connection. At least that's the hope. 

Ronald

June- January's perspective

I attached a tape to my postcard and I'm gonna do this for the rest of the ones I send. Sorry about Darnell by the way. He had the kind of humor and boldness I want to this day. 

And sorry if you don't have a cassette player but that's okay because I mailed you one. I saved up two paychecks for a quality one. Tell June I said “hey”. 

I work ten hour days every Monday through Friday and sleep takes up the majority of my weekends. That means this tape is gonna be brief. 

It's sweet that you wanna revisit our friendship after we allowed Frances to come between us. Her and I split a month after you and I did. If that means anything. Aside from abusive childhoods and vanilla bean ice cream, we didn't have anything in common. 

As for us, I don't have the time to explore that option properly. When my life slows down, that could be a possibility. And once I move into my new place. 

Later,

January

July- Ronald's perspective

I'm sorry about Frances. She is a fantastic woman but I guess she doesn't fit the romantic makeup of what either of us desire in a partner. 

Thanks for the cassette player. Didn't think ancient artifacts of this caliber were sold by anyone. But leave it to the internet to have some in stock. The tape is an interesting approach. And here, I assumed sending postcards would be as analog as it gets between us. You would exceed my expectations. 

I understand how consumed you are by work. Capitalism doesn't stop whether you are overcome with grief or overwhelmed with joy. Rent has to be paid, groceries need to be purchased, clothes have to be thrifted or however you get them these days. If I can hazard a guess, my job is gonna terminate my position if they haven't already. 

I hope you're taking care of yourself otherwise. Maintain that mental and emotional balance, disengage whenever necessary. Don't worry if we can't reconnect yet or at all. Congrats on your new place. 

And June says “hey”. 

Later to you too,

Ronald

July- January's perspective

There is an exhausting amount of “sorry” volleying back and forth in these letter/postcard/tape messages. And as much as I enjoy a good apology ping-pong, this is less about us and should be more about Darnell's passing. Sorry about your job though. I hope you find something better after your grieving period. 

Remember when we made a house out of his trading cards and drove one of his forever-lost toy cars into it? He could not hold in his laughter when he caught us. And for making fun of his driving, he would wait for us outside and spray us with the water hose or butter the kitchen floor for us to slip when we returned from school. 

Those were simple times. I miss those times. 

Thanks for the congrats on the new place. It's got two bedrooms this time and a balcony. 

And I try to keep my head together with some painting in my downtime. 

Talk to you later, 

January

August- Ronald's perspective

You couldn't be more right. It is about his passing and I remember when he arrived at one of my piano recitals in an obnoxious orange suit. He tested the auditorium acoustics with the loudest clapping known to man and everyone mimicked him the following day. Middle school was worse in that aspect but he was present. 

He drove me to one of your plays when we attended high school. It was The Dragonfly Effect and you played an incredible dragonfly. Somehow, he clapped louder there and I joined him. You were redder than I've seen. Then came the pictures. 

“Move in close, J!” He yelled and your eyes were magnetized to the floor. Vanilla bean ice cream always swayed you into easy forgiveness. You didn't stay irritated long after that. 

And then Darnell coated our troubles in school in some hilarious perspective. Something about the principal's panic over the lack of school funds for senior trips which wasn't inaccurate. Our senior trip didn't happen but somehow, that excused our declining grades in Trigonometry. 

Anyway, this is an incoherent ramble session. Tell me if it is and I'll cut these shorter to work better with your work days. 

Speak soon, 

Ronald

August- January's perspective

Don't worry about it, Ronald. Speak as much as you want. Ramble on because Darnell is worth that much talk. 

I moved into my new place and wouldn't have found it if it weren't for his keen eye for neighbors who aren't annoying or nosy. He said you know a good neighbor by how little they say and how much they win you over without striving to win you over. I didn't forget that or the embarrassment at that high school production. 

Funny thing is that I could be drawn out with vanilla bean ice cream to this day. That is always an option. Especially sweating as much as I have recently. Plus, the workload has slowed down. Probably because Frances bought the strip mall where I work and rearranged the management in every business. 

There may be time to try to repair our fracture after all. 

Speak soon, 

January

September- Ronald's perspective

I ended up finding new work writing articles online. It's infrequent work but it's work nevertheless. And I didn't know Frances had the financial power to purchase an entire strip mall. I hate to imagine that she plans to “rearrange” employees too because her decision to replace you could be personal. Darnell would have challenged her, worked up some people to rally against her because people need the work. 

That's another aspect of him I miss. He didn't accept the status quo if it put those less fortunate at risk. And whether or not the managers are the most efficient, all of them maintain a genuine connection with their customers. 

Remember when he was arrested for protesting against funding for school computers siphoned away by politicians for vacations and other frivolous expenses? My mom was proud of his bravery to stand for a righteous cause. The funding was split between computers and senior trips in high school but for a time, public school funding here was not funneled into self-centered political agendas. 

And I can take you up on that offer. How about the cafe we frequented from elementary school to college? They have vanilla bean, I think. 

Consider me excited, 

Ronald

September- January's perspective

It's amazing that you found something new! Writing articles sounds like it's more in your wheelhouse than whatever you did before. Retail I'm guessing. 

And what you said about Frances being a fantastic woman before is true. Someone is behind her coaxing her to displace people. Doesn't feel like something she would do but then again, the villain doesn't need a reason to be a villain. Not to say she is one and not to say she doesn't have the capacity to be one because we all do. 

Darnell was a bonafide hero though. His arrest inspired me to join grassroots movements or at least inform people about them. Link up with people around the city to feed those who can't feed themselves in mission shelters and other places neglected by elected officials. Whether he donated time or joked around, he was an honest giver. 

And the cafe you mentioned does have vanilla bean ice cream. It's Cup of Dorothy. Few blocks away from my new place in fact. That would be a perfect meeting place. 

See you then, 

January

October- Ronald's perspective 

I don't know if you've watched the recent news or not but regardless of that, you've overheard whispers about Frances. People have been mobilizing against her strip mall acquisition as well as the swift removal and replacement of store managers. She shut down small businesses too in favor of franchises seeking to expand. The protestors are gathered in front of the strip mall and April and I plan to attend. 

By the time this reaches you, this has gained enough traction that it's a statewide affair. Rumor has it riot police will arrive armed to the teeth. Don't come down here unless you want to be pepper sprayed or mauled by dogs. Or beaten or strangled to death. 

Frances is gonna release a statement in response to the protests. Most likely something manufactured; a far cry from the charismatic and considerate person we know and once loved. I don't have the slightest idea what words will leave her mouth but they will reek of feigned sympathy for us. Someone IS behind her coaxing her to displace people. You called it. 

This oversized postcard may be the final one sent or read from Darnell's white room. All the bottomless tears shed for him and I could join him when violence breaks out. And it will because peace is eventually met with chaos. It is rarely addressed with peace. 

April's handwriting- you may have needed a magnifying glass to read the tiny font because it has to fit on the postcard- conveys everything I wanted to express to you. At least through writing. Depending on the outcome of the protest, we can reconnect at Cup of Dorothy soon. And we can do so over coffee and vanilla bean ice cream. 

Thanks for responding, 

Ronald

March 13, 2021 04:08

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