The Darkness

July 17, 2009 at 2:09 am (Random Writings) ()

*Author’s note:  I was extremely proud of my work with this story.  My Intermediate Fiction Writing professor was not.  Once more, she tells me that I haven’t written a story, failing to give description of what the characters look like or any set pieces.  What I’ve given is a character study.  Good for me I suppose.  70 out of 100 points.  I’ve taken a step back, scoring less than my previous assignment, of which I hardly put any effort into at all.  Naturally, the very next week we were assigned a short story written without character or set descriptions.  I was furious and shaken, but I’m still proud of my work here.  So enjoy.

 

The Darkness

 

Three live there.  One is in denial.  One is at the bottom.  And one is the darkness that looms above the other two.  It is not a happy place.  It never had a chance to be.  The two roommates, Jack and Carlos, never allowed such a chance to flourish.  Such a thought was never even an option.  The only concepts that crossed their minds were ideas that had sifted through the darkness, and nothing that drained out the bottom was ever something a third party would consider happy.

            Jack did not have a rough childhood.  Nor was he ever given everything on a jewel-encrusted plate.  Jack’s childhood was just there, and he resented that fact.  His family was stable and supportive; his upbringing was strict yet fair.  If he were to decide to go on a rampage with a shotgun through his philosophy class the courts would have a hard time pinpointing a source of blame.  And this bothers him, because the thought has crossed his mind more than once.  Anyone who knows Jack would label him as a “nice guy,” and no one understands the depths of hate like a nice guy.

            “The rent’s due on the 3rd, Carlos.”  Jack says this more as a harmful warning then a friendly reminder, knowing full well that Carlos’ only response will be something close to “Don’t worry, I’ve got it.”  Instead Carlos just nods, quiet, slowly, and passes Jack on the way out the door.

            Carlos did have a rough childhood.  His family life was the sort that’d make the likes of Jerry Springer blush.  Abandonment from father figures, mothers having mental breakdowns, and siblings facing more than their share of abuses.  And to make matters worse, his childhood has worked its way into Carlos’ present, refusing to let him escape the constant stream of crazy pouring out from his family.  Frequent phone calls demand him to act as the peacemaker to a family that lives hours away.  At any given moment Carlos will be forced to deal with what anyone else and especially Jack refers to as “The stupidest situations imaginable.”

            “Yes, this is Carlos.  What has mom done now?”  There is hardly a hello anymore during his conversations.  It only really wastes time.  “Please, I can’t call her right now; I have too much to do.  Just tell her I love her and to go to bed.”  It doesn’t matter much; no one listens to what he has to say.  “Fine, I’ll call her.”  As a new call is started, Spanish begins pouring out of Carlos’ mouth like a broken spigot, trying to help his mother see reason.

            “We don’t speak crazy around here Carlos, we speak English.”  Carlos only slightly looks up, shrugging as Jack passes him on the way out.  The comment isn’t so much meant as a racist jab, but a frustrated sting, intended to convince Carlos to give up already.  Repetition doesn’t seem to be getting the point across, but the difficulty of passive-aggressive behavior is that once it’s blatant, it isn’t passive-aggressive anymore.

            In Jack’s mind, people give far too little power to the term “hate.”  It’s used to describe too much.  Everything is a hate crime, hate speech, hateful this and hateful that.  To Jack, “hate” is meant only for select occasions.  The word “hate” just feels so good rolling off the tongue.  “Hate…” he’ll say to no one in particular, just savoring the taste as the word oozes across his lips.  A connoisseur of sorts, dealing mostly in the business of hate, lapping up the richness in which it affects people; the pureness of such a concept when done right.

            Jack didn’t always hate everyone though.  No one is ever born with that knowledge, much like no one is ever born with the concept of “good” etched into their mind.  Hate is learned just as love, and sometimes hate is learned because of love.  This is how Jack was instructed in the finer arts of malicious, unadulterated hate and loathing for those who received what he always desired most: love.

            “How’s the girl doing?” Jack asks Carlos as they pass once more on their respective way across the threshold of the apartment.  Carlos smiles weekly, bobbing his head as if this will shake any answers loose.

            “She’s doing fine.  We’re doing fine.”  Jack looks back and nods, hardly disguising his grimace anymore.

            To Carlos, the only stable thing in his life is his girlfriend.  On many occasions he’s even told her that she’s the only good thing in his life.  Doesn’t matter that it’s the sort of thing a daytime soap would quote, it’s the truth and nothing is purer than the feeling of warmth he feels when he strokes her hair, holds her tight, presses his lips against hers.  But it’s not meant to last, and knowing this may just be worse.

            For more than one reason, Carlos’ happiness is only temporary.  His one stable pillar is marked for demolition come summer.  He knows that’s when she’ll leave.  The main instigator comes from her decision to enlist in the Peace Corps once college ends.  Although Carlos desperately wishes she’d stay, he can’t in good conscience tell her to abandon this choice.  It means too much to her and it only makes sense for how the rest of her life needs to play out.  And beyond just the standard two years of separation, there is something more that will keep them away, and Carlos knows this.  Anyone who would share his life must be willing to share his financial state, and that’s something that his girlfriend, his first and only real love, has regretted that she can never do.

            Jack is financially comfortable and spends money like it’s meaningless, and to him it really is.  “What’s the point of putting a value on something that’s bountiful?” is his philosophy on the matter.  He’s managed to achieve this goal of financial independence not from hard work or supportive parents, but rather from mounds of student loans.  As of now, over twenty-five grand.  Not a cent needs to be paid until school is finished, and he doesn’t anticipate it being a problem.

            Jack once asked his mother, “Mom, what sort of life insurance plan do you have covering me?”

            “What?  Um, right now you have a plan that covers any serious injury or illness that you could encounter.”

            “If I died tomorrow, how much would you stand to earn?”  She can say nothing to this, only stare blankly as if she misheard Jack the first time.  “Mom, how much?”  After she blinks a few more times and goes into her own minds for a moment, she chokes out the response, “Thirty thousand.”

            “Good, that’s all I needed to know…”

            If Carlos didn’t have Jack around, he would drown in the ocean of debt he’s formed, not so much from his own foolish mistakes but rather from his family’s.  It was only recently that Carlos learned that in addition to the standard credit card debt he owed, nothing too outrageous for a first credit card, that another, second credit card had been maxed out somewhere in the twenties of thousands range, courtesy of his mother.  For a while the nightly phone calls increased due to the new problem that had been added; a problem that was never Carlos’ to begin with.  But he accepted it as if it was, admitting that somewhere along the line he could have done more and regretting that the job of “peacemaker” didn’t pay better in the long run.  As Carlos steps into the apartment, his frustration gets the better of him and he shuts the door harder than he intended to, instantly pausing in his phone conversation to worry that he’s bothered Jack.  There is only quiet.

            Jack can find little time to enjoy the endless expanse of his mind, but the only time he’s guaranteed to have this time is when he sleeps, making sleep the only activity that brings him any semblance of joy or regularity that he can find.  “In my dreams anything is possible,” Jack once told Carlos.  “When I’m asleep no one can tell me something I don’t want to hear.  I’m in complete control.  I can do anything; be anything.”  Typically Jack experiences the same nightmare, and this afternoon sees the same situation over again.

            As it always goes without fail, the dream plays itself out with Jack just watching as people rush by him, too busy to say anything to him or even take notice.  Except for that one person.  As Jack catches sight of her, she moves towards him with a definite intent to her walk.  She gently grabs Jack’s hand and pulls him to his feet.  Before he knows it’s coming out, Jack has blurted “I can’t promise I can make you happy, but I know I’d try harder than anyone ever would.”  Instead of letting go and leaving him standing there, she pulls him closer, her hand on his face, and kisses him ever so sweetly on the lips, brushing over them as carefully as one would dust for fingerprints, only stopping for a moment to say “I know, and I love you, too.”  And then the sun starts coming up as they sit together, their hands locked in a grasp that no one would dare attempt to break, a single tear having begun sliding down his cheek.

            This is the point where Jack wakes up, always.  The promise of the bright sunlight is all a lie as the only thing that greets him is utter darkness.  The warmth of her lips has faded to bitter cold.  His bed is empty, and his hand is clenching nothing, nearly bleeding from clenching so hard.  He is alone, except for the one tear that does little more than mock him.  He’d scream except no one would hear him or care, so he turns back over and attempts to find his true love once more, only to discover that she’s gone for another night, surely to return again in 24 hours to taunt him as cruelly as every night.

            “Hey man,” Carlos says to Jack as Jack enters the living room.  Jack closes his eyes and nods in recognition as he takes a seat across from Carlos.  “Did I wake you just now?”  Jack slowly shakes his head, unwilling to make any sudden movements as if it will tempt some unseen force to react.  “You alright?”

            “I’m just fine.  You?”

            “Yeah.”

            The two just looks at each other, weak smiles on their faces, and nod in unison.  Three live there: Jack, Carlos, and the darkness that hangs above them both.

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1 Comment

  1. frabjousflamingo said,

    I bet, eventually, Jack finds someone. And he is able to make her even happier than she thought possible. Maybe there should be a sequel. 🙂

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