This is 15 pages long, a full movement, and my final for fic1. Enjoy, if you choose to read all of it.
The putrid smell of burning hair just barely overpowered the metallic stink of the blood that covered me from head to toe. I sat, face blank, contemplating the course not only the evening, but my entire life had ran. As the shrill, muffled sounds of sirens pierced through the ringing in my ears, I finally started making sense of the night. The problem was me. My ex was right; I force people to lash out at me. There are sometimes that others can’t be held responsible for their actions, this time included. Three bodies rolled past me on stretchers as I pulled up the rough overly sterilized blanket around my shoulders and thought to myself “This is the most fucked up blind date I’ve ever had.”
April and I had been daring for three magical months. Every minute I spent with her made me feel like I was twelve years old again, and not just because I had to hide my erections in public. The smell of her hair would linger in my nostrils for hours after I would leave her on her doorstep. We would go on dates that history has proven to be the most romantic possible: long walks on the beach at sunset, picnics in the park, and (my favorite) going to the zoo. Looking at the animals in their cages always made me feel better about myself, and even though I tried explaining that to April, she never really understood what I was talking about. Have you ever seen a tiger look like he was crying?
The way they pace in those tiny pens, the food that they have thrown to them instead of having to hunt it themselves, the utter lack of any sort of running room? These are things that I don’t have to deal with. I am a free man, and sure, I might not be the best looking, or best dressed, or smoothest talker, or… well, let’s just say at least I can roam around more than an eight by eight cell. Even though she didn’t get the same ego boost that I did while looking at the animals, April did love the photo booth in the gift shop. I kept one of the frames, me kissing her on the cheek, my disheveled black hair tickling the side of her face, and April looking playfully annoyed, in my wallet covering the obligatory bad photo on my driver’s license. After I would get home, I would call her on the phone, and we would talk for what seemed like seconds, but my cell phone service charged as days. I would call her “Schnookie poo” and “Gumdrop” and while she didn’t have any pet names for me, you could hear the love in the way she pronounced “Julius.” She must have had a speech impediment she didn’t like to talk about, because I’ve never heard anyone else pronounce “Julian” that way. I loved her little imperfections. They reminded me of my own. Much like the pen ink tattoo I stabbed into the side of my ankle the night before my heart was torn in two.
We were at our favorite hotdog place, the 7/11 on the corner. April always went through great care to perfectly top her hotdog, and while I was sloshing ketchup from one of the many square containers, she turned to me and said “There’s someone else.”
“What?” I asked, the ketchup spoon falling back into its home with a splat.
“He goes to my gym.” April sprinkled onions on the left half of her hotdog. “He’s
a lawyer with a 401k, dreams of a house and kids, and pecs that shine like Adonis in a light sun shower.” Next she reached for the celery salt as I stood reeling from what was possibly the worst news I had ever heard. “He’s going somewhere with his life doesn’t complain about his job every chance he gets, and doesn’t need constant attention.” She punctuated attention by slamming the salt shaker down, hard.
“But what about me? What about us?” I asked after trying to think about how often I complain about my job. I would probably have been able to think of it quicker, but they have me working such awful hours that I never get any sleep. That place is a nightmare anyway.
“This is exactly what I’m talking about.” She picked up a massive scoop of jalapeños and dumped them all over her hotdog. I hate jalapeños, they are horribly spicy and awful. Plus, when I kiss April after she eats them, I have to taste them anyway. They aren’t quite as bad as the relish. The weird radioactive green freaks me out. But I’m distracting myself, trying not to get to the worst part. “You, you, you. It’s always about you. Sometimes I just need some me, me, me.”
“But I give you my everything. Everything I do is for you” I didn’t notice that my hotdog had fallen into the mustard.
“There you go again.” April had finished her ritual, and had already started eating her hotdog. I would have laughed when she had pieces of onion fall from her cheek, but I couldn’t see it if it did happen, because by this point my tears had started to make it hard to get a sight of her. “And the tears. You cry all the time. You aren’t even close to being a real man. I’m glad I found someone who knows how to act like a grown up instead of a pissy cry-baby. This is really your fault. You make people lash out at you.” April started to put her food away and leave, but before I could let her walk out of my life forever, I pleaded one last time.
“I know you want to leave, but know that everything I do is for you.”
“You said that already.”
“I know! But please, just keep me in mind. I will be here. I will be here forever.”
“Whatever you want. I’m leaving now.”
“Well, have a good life, until you call me.”
“You too, I guess… Oh, and Julius?”
“Go fuck yourself.”
With that, April walked out.
The next few weeks were hard. I tried not thinking about her, but everything that I saw was a bitter reminder of better times. I was walking home one day and saw a daisy in a flowerbox; daisies are April’s favorites. I passed a Pepsi ad and remembered her preference for Coke. Because of all of the images of her manifesting themselves in front of me, I walked with my eyes closed. That’s when I stepped in a huge pile of dog shit. April hated stepping in dog shit. As I scraped my shoe on the sidewalk, brown streaks being drawn on the grey concrete, I took a deep breath; April had to breathe to live. I sat down, right back into the foul smelling poop calligraphy I made that read “Apr”, trying to not to cry too hard. I knew it was my fault for being clingy, but she could have asked for some space without breaking up with me. No, I must be wrong. I’m always wrong. It’s all my fault.
I went to work, with April’s accusation of complaining still ringing in my ears. As much as I tried to just stay focused while fact checking for the Herald, the words would all swirl around, making pictures of April. I couldn’t shake them, and after three hours of not working, I gave up and asked my boss if I could take a sick day. He’s an angry, bald, red faced, and stout man, as most news paper editors are, or at least I assume, since I only know one. The thing with Jim Ryan (he demands we call him by his full name. I don’t get it either) is that he makes you feel wrong no matter what. So asking him for anything is always a hairy ordeal. I tried telling him that I was love sick, a real disorder that had affected my ability to work, and he simply said “Shut the FUCK up and get to work you goddamn peon! If I EVER see you in my office again I will chew off yer head and spit it up yer godforsaken ass! ‘Love sick?’ BULLSHIT!” Did I mention he’s not a nice man? I went back to my desk, trying to figure out if there really were 11,000 puppy mills in the Los Angeles area, and if that was indeed more than in Chicago, when I felt the tears coming. Jim Ryan said there was no such thing as being love sick, but this was more than I could take. April thought puppies were cute! I went back to Jim Ryan’s office, handed him my letter of resignation, and ran out as fast as I could before he read it and started having a coronary. I went out, bought a black turtle neck, new black pants, and some really heavy curtains. After stopping to pick up “Wish” by The Cure, I went home, changed, put the album on, and locked my door.
After a week I had a solid depression beard grown. While “beard” might be too strong of a term, it certainly did the trick of showing how haggard I felt inside. My world had crashed into the sun, then the sun imploded, and all that was left was a poison vacuum of death, swallowing universe after universe, leaving nothing but pain and misery. Whys flew around my darkened apartment, and as the piles of take out containers grew and the moldy homeless person scent permeated, I found myself curled up in a ball like a child, screaming broken “Friday I’m in love” lyrics through my sobs. As Robert Smith and I wailed about Sunday always coming too late, there was a knock on the door, then another, then the door just opened.
“Julian, you gave me a key and I’m coming in. Stop masturbating…or whatever you’re doing in here. God I hope he’s jerking off, because if he’s dead I will vomit.” Wade’s voice made me straighten up off the floor. “Holy shit, it smells like a hobo died in a puddle of his own vomit in here.”
“JULIAN! ARE YOU DEAD? CAN YOU HEAR ME?” Logan started screaming before I could have answered Wade. The light from the hallway was blinding, and I must have looked like an Iraqi prisoner coming out of solitary confinement, because Logan yelled “DAMN! You look like an Iraqi prisoner coming out of solitary confinement!” My friends are assholes.
“I’m fine, just… close the fucking door.” I said, trying to hide the tear streaks on my face.
“What the fuck have you been doing the last week? You know what? I don’t really want to know. I do want to know WHY you haven’t left your apartment, or why I keep getting voice mails from you that just keep saying ‘she’s gone, she’s gone.’” Wade always had a way with making me feel better…
“Or why you smell like the inside of a fat man’s gym bag. If a fat man ever went to a gym…”
“Is this about your girlfriend leaving you? ALL OF THIS?”
“Because that would be pretty fucked up. It’s just a girl.”
“Seriously. And don’t feed us any of that ‘I loved her’ shit. We don’t want to hear it, because you only knew her for three months. And in that time a man doesn’t learn to love his own mother…”
“Never the less some bitch girl. Where’d you even find her? Bitches r’ Us? Because she literally leaked evil.”
“Right. Now get the fuck up, and start… showering. But THEN start dating again! We’ll help you out! And if Logan or Rob or I have to set you up with some of our hot lady friends, we will.”
“Wade’s right. Grow a pair and stop crying in the dark to The Cure. It isn’t the eighties anymore anyway!” I was trying to understand where they were coming from. I knew I should man up, but April was so beautiful and wonderful and magical, that I couldn’t stop thinking of her. I was about to tell them to fuck off and get out of my house, when Rob chimed in for the first time. Rob was normally very mild mannered, and gave great thought to everything he said. Which is why I was so surprised to hear him say:
“Come the fuck on! If I have to rip those fucking black clothes off of you, dress you, force drinks down your throat, and then get you into bed with blonde twins from Sweden on spring break who desperately want to lash out at their parents by having some loser American’s illegitimate child, only to move back home and raise it on their own, I FUCKING WILL!”
After that I really didn’t have a choice but to open the curtains and buy a new razor.
Logan had a cousin come up from Alabama, and he wanted to set us up. We all met at some terrible dive bar, the kind with their specials printed on banners from a Super Bowl from which both starting quarterbacks were now long retired. I said I would give her a shot, but as soon as I saw her, I made up an excuse to leave, saying I felt sick. She looked just like April. I mean, sure, her hair was darker, and longer, and styled in a way that would make most women vomit. And yeah, she was only about 5’ 1” compared to April’s 5’ 7”. She also had two less front teeth and cauliflower ear. Her smile made her moustache dance, and as she batted her clumped eyelashes at me, I had to look away. I could see April right under that sloping brow and through her hunched shoulders. Even the way she said “Howdy” (more accurately, “Haughdeeeee!”) reminded me of April; how she had such perfect diction. I hopped on a bus and headed home, passing homeless person after homeless person, wishing I could be left alone just like they were. Lonely, and free. What a great life!
Wade gave it a try next with the worst possible situation to throw me into; karaoke. The thing about karaoke is that you attempt to sing some really awful song in front of a bunch of people. For those of us who are the worst singers, this means that a bar full of people will be watching us awkwardly flounder for a few minutes, before finally running away to vomit in the bathroom. I can never do ANYTHING right, nevertheless pull off a tune in front of people judging me. So it stands to reason that there is nothing I want to do less. But still, I had to try to push April’s ghost from my mind, so there I was, standing in a karaoke bar, pencil and sign up sheet in hand because apparently it would make me seem “cooler” to the amateur boxer Wade had brought along. She was decent looking, save for the healing black eye, way too much make up, and distinct height advantage over me. I was pretty sure she had an Adam’s apple, but Wade assured me that she was “all woman.” There was a lot of that that I didn’t care to know about. I got called way sooner than I was ready for, having only drank about six shots of whiskey, and made my way to the stage to sing “Angel” by Sarah MacLachlan. I didn’t know the lyrics, and as I was singing and reading them for the first real time, I kept thinking of April. I wished I was in the arms of that angel. I started to tear up again, and screamed into the microphone “I LOVE YOU APRIL! I MISS YOU SO MUCH!” The song eventually ended, and as the overwhelming silence finally broke to jeers and laughs, I made my way back to my table. Wade’s boxer lady friend asked who April was, and I told her, at length, about how gorgeous April was. How much I loved April. How no woman, or freakishly tall, man-handed, lady-monster could ever take her place. In retrospect, that might have been a bit mean, but I was just so crushed by all of the memories of April that I couldn’t be held responsible for my actions. I guess I deserved the slap to the face I received that moment. Unfortunately, her being a gigantic monster woman meant that I couldn’t chew solid food for almost a week after that. I headed home defeated, once again, to find an icepack and drank until I passed out.
I was half way back into my black turtleneck when Rob called. He had made me reservations at Le Branlette, the French restaurant that makes my wallet cry every time I walk past. There is a live string quartet, several crystal chandeliers, and the waiters wear full on tuxedos. The place has a dress code. All of this while trying to live off of savings before going on unemployment. I would have told him to cancel, that there was no way that I could afford it, but I figured I would treat myself to a nice dinner. And even if the girl turned out to be an awful, bitter reminder that I would be alone forever without my dear April, I would at least get to eat expensive food. So I found the only tie I owned and went.
The inside of the place was even more intimidating than I thought it would be. Not only did I feel incredibly underdressed in my near skin tight black khakis and worn out dress shirt that wouldn’t stay tucked in, but I also had to wear a big, red carnation. To “let her know it’s you” as Rob put it. Sticking out like a sore thumb is my forte, so there I sat, between paintings from French artists I couldn’t tell you the name of, French wines I couldn’t pronounce, and a waiter with a French accent, even though I swear that I took an English class with him once, and was pretty sure he said he was from Minnesota. I sat staring at happy couples, each of them looking deeply into the other’s eyes, wearing formal wear I had up to this point only see on TV during the Oscars. My phony French waiter came and asked if I would like a drink, to which it seemed the only logical answer was yes. I was sitting alone at a very expensive restaurant, a giant goofy red flower half stapled to my chest, and my boxers hanging out of the back of my pants. Yes, I needed a drink. I ordered a whiskey and water, and it came, but it must have been a very small one, seeing as within a minute I was asking for another, but a tall one this time. I sucked down the pale brown courage juice, and time stood still. Or at very least crawled by at the pace of an elderly woman coming home from a lunch buffet. This must have accounted for my having finished the second drink before I felt the effects of the first. As the waiter came around and asked if I would like another drink, he eyed me up and down, presumably trying to calculate my net worth. His guess was probably high, even if he had nothing but the worst expectations. Although, we also probably had similar unpaid student loans, so there was always that. I did want another drink, but worried that it would make the difference between dinner and no dinner, I went with just a water. I was then asked if I would like him to remove the other place setting. It was at this moment that she walked through the door. The entire restaurant seemed to quite, as a magical spotlight shined on her from both the front and the back, casting a heavenly glow wherever she went. She was gorgeous with brilliant perfect teeth, flawless porcelain skin, and hair so shiny that it could blind you even in the daylight. But not in a bad way, mind you, but in a “I feed my dog Alpo so that he has a shiny coat!” kind of way. As she walked towards me I prayed that she would take off her sweater revealing a matching red flower, knowing full well that she would wear it with grace and beauty and far better than I did. I knew that I didn’t have a chance of ending up with a woman so good looking, so you can imagine my surprise when she stopped at my table and asked “Are you Julian?”
I have never been good with words, but if I was asked to describe this girls beauty I would say:
“There stands a Goddess. Mortals of Earth, bow your heads and shield your eyes, less you become blinded by the flawless glow that surrounds this pale creature. Ten thousand poets could write for ten thousand years and never come close to crafting a verse that would read half as beautifully as the freckles on her perfect nose. Were her eyes to carry the powers of Medusa, I would happily gaze into them just for the brief moment of bliss that would accompany that gaze, and I could stay forever caught in that moment of knowing true, perfect love.”
Luckily, no one asked me, otherwise they would have been completely ignored as I continued to stare dumbly.
Her name was Samantha. She sat across from me, ordered a matching glass of water, and then started talking immediately about how fake our waiters accent was. She laughed and smiled as I told her about my possible English class with him, and it was the first time I felt any sense of self confidence in a long time. She went on to tell me about her job as a zoologist, and how it was her dream to go to Africa and study gazelles. This is my favorite animal, and the fact that we shared this obscure love made me fall for her. The gazelle is a perfect animal for her to love. Just like her, the gazelle is an animal of grace and beauty. It is a natural survivor and a very communal animal. Like me, gazelles have a urine fetish, but that didn’t come up during our conversation. The topics changed and changed, seamless transitions from animals, to heavy machinery, to the absurdity of British royalty, but everything that Samantha said was in a perfect soprano, each note hit with flawless execution, leaving me breathless at the end of each symphonic sentence. At some point the faux French waiter came back, asking for our orders, and standing rigidly with a look that read both “You are a lucky man” and “Please, you poor bastard, hurry up and order your credit card maxing meal before I die of old age.” I deferred to Samantha, who’s order made me fall in love with her:
“The house sirloin, medium rare. And can I get a whiskey and water with my meal, please?”
It was meant to be. When he turned to me, all I had to say was “Ditto.”
When the waiter left, we just looked at each other for a minute. Normally, this would be a very awkward minute, trying to find something to say, trying to break eye contact. That is what I would have expected going into this date. Instead, she broke the silence by leaning in close, her strawberry blonde curls framing her face better than any painting in the Louvre. “I know it’s only been a little bit, but I could see us together already. I think…I think I might fall for you. Please don’t think I’m weird and run away.” I sat breathless as flashes of hopefully-her-side-of-the-gene-pool-is-more-prevalent babies, giant houses in the suburbs with white picket fences and golden retrievers, and matching cemetery plots passed before my eyes. Fantasies of the night we were sure to have after dinner started playing, and I was thankful for the tablecloth covering my lap. I knew there was a reason I didn’t like the spring time, particularly late March, but I couldn’t explain why. Nor could I understand why I hated jalapeños so much. My heart had swollen to the point that it was pushing the air out of my lungs and I thought it would burst out of my chest, when I was brought back to reality by the smell of meat and the sound of the pretentious fake accent of our waiter. He served Samantha first, and she immediately cut into her steak. As he placed my plate in front of me, along with our drinks, he asked how everything looked. I will never forgive him for this. Samantha put a fork in half of her steak and held it up to the waiter.
“This is medium. What did I ask for?” said a rather red-faced Samantha. The fire in her voice could have cooked the steak to a char, and I felt strangely warm as she spoke.
“Medium rare. I am terribly sorry madam; I can have the chef remake it more to your liking.”
“Why on earth should I have to wait another half an hour to eat just because you can’t do your fucking job?” Samantha was getting redder, and must have made the waiter feel tiny, because she seemed to grow larger and angrier with each word. “What kind of shit-hole establishment is this that I can’t even make a simple order? How much extra do you get paid to make a mockery of the service industry?” Samantha seemed to shine with an unnatural, yet strangely beautiful glow. I admired her passion, but was beginning to wonder if I should step in and save my former classmate from her wrath. I decided that I would probably make the situation worse, so I just sat there, loosening my tie and wondering why I was sweating. “IS IT SO MUCH TO ASK THAT I GET A MEDIUM RARE FUCKING STEAK?! IS THAT SO HARD? WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO TO GET-”
It would be at this point that most people would realize they have made far too big of a scene. Most people would apologize, ask for a doggie bag, tip thirty or so percent, and run far away from the restaurant. Or at least that’s what I would do. I would also have suggested this to Samantha, had she not exploded. Quite literally exploded. In a burning hot flash of fire and smoke, Samantha burst, pieces of her rocketing away from her chair. The waiter was too close to survive, but luckily blocked most of the blast from reaching me. Some of the other patrons weren’t quite as lucky as forks, plates, and slightly overcooked red meat went flying indiscriminately across the room. A small child sat helplessly on the floor under half of our table. An elderly woman about twenty feet away sat sprawled in her chair, one of Samantha’s perfect fingers half exposed in her forehead. The overhead lighting, once brilliant, were now a red and pink mess of crystal and Samantha. Strands of her curls and one of her gorgeous green eyes had coated one of the paintings, adding a human touch to the stark French landscape, and if you ask me, improved upon it greatly. At some point the paramedics came, asking if I was alright, and if I could stand up. I was one of the few people left sitting upright in a chair, and certainly the only one who was sitting alive. I would say it was a miracle, but with my sad state of affairs it felt like just the opposite. Somehow I ended up on the back of an ambulance. It may have been the explosion causing me to hallucinate, or it may have been real, but I watched as my once rabidly erect penis slithered down my pants and onto the street below. As it slinked off slowly, presumably to find a new home, it turned back to me and said “Please don’t come looking for me. Everything you touch turns to shit, and if that’s any indicator, I don’t stand a snowballs chance in hell.”
“But penis,” I said, “What about me? What about us?”
“That line has never EVER worked! I was there, dip shit! I know! And besides, one of us has to get some. And frankly, it’s not gonna be you. So do me a favor, and fuck off.” I don’t really blame it, I hated me too.
The coming weeks and months held investigations, hearings, and looking for a job. But still I had a lot of down time. I tried not thinking about Samantha, but figured I would need a hobby if I really didn’t want to see her perfect face every where I went. So I learned to knit, further removing any chance I had at getting a girlfriend. But you know what? I think I’m finally starting to be good at something.