Poem: Revolt, Rebel, Revolt, Rebel

Freedom lies,

in that which makes you uncomfortable,

ringing of the alarm bell,

do you hear it?

to wake up or stay asleep? That is the question,

comfortable dreams,

dreaming of a comfortable life,

chained to the bed,

unaware of the tightening bondage.

 

Revolt,

Revolt,

Revolt,

 

The echo dims the longer you stay comfortable,

the revolution fades.

 

When will you break free?

did you hear that echo in your head?

no prince charming,

no magic to set you free,

sinking deeper into the soft bed,

going deeper into the dream,

the chain tightens; the clock ticks,

the uncomfortable freedom,

not as cruel as the comfortable imprisonment,

for one must fight for their freedom every day,

cause sleep comes with shackles.

 

Rebel,

Rebel,

Rebel,

 

Eventually, every rebellion dies.

 

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Poem: What Are You Afraid Of?

What are you afraid of?

that thing which distracted thoughts keep you from remembering,

or what the warm smile hides,

(the real you)

dancing around the light, a

round of applause, for

we are impressed by your cowardice, for

our own cowardice makes us appreciate your movements,

the graceful steps; avoiding the light,

waving pleasantly to your admires,

is that even your face?

but you can’t mask the fear,

fear in each movement,

afraid to stumble

afraid to be rejected,

(afraid to be you)

thinking the light is your enemy, but

it’s the only ally you have,

if you just stop and let it bathe you,

expose you,

all of you,

then what will you be afraid of?

 

 

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Poem: Was It Worth It?

The glory gained, fleeting as

grains of sand in a tight fist, never

embedded in you, seeping

through your fingers, you

can’t take it with you, you’re buried

with what you can into this world, nothing

so that prestige of yours which was attained through sacrifice, that

 price of blood you paid for a moment of recognition,

was it worth it?

 

The same hands that chased fame, once

caressed her soft oval face, her

hand wrapping around your finger, the

same one you used to order your men, that

hand that was so caring, once, now

hardened by the blood of your love, the

Gods were pleased, but

can that hand of yours ever feel anything again?

that hand signed a pact with the devil,

your heart for eternal fame,

infamous you became,

was it worth it?

 

What did you do with the riches?

Others sing of your end, the

victory of yours is mentioned in lamented tones,

your memories are accompanied by tears,

not happiness for you buried love and rowed your boats over it, poisoning

your household, what man can be forgiven for that?

Yet you lifted your land above all others, so

the whole world saw what greed gets you,

you became an example and not a beacon, so

was it worth it?

 

The blade won you your name,

the blade marked you as cursed,

were you even happy for a moment?

Did you not hear your daughters scream when others sang songs of triumph?

then one has to wonder,

Agamemnon,

was it worth it?

 

 

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Poem: Your Hourglass Empties

Understand that the present is all you have, no

life in the past, gone

are those days, future

hope is always a second away,

pleasant to think about, but

you’ll never catch it.

 

no life outside the now,

no hell outside the now,

no heaven outside the now,

no bliss outside the now.

 

Wasting the present; wasting life

dreaming of different lives; living only one

that one goes quickly, as

keep dreaming, hoping, praying,

passivity isn’t rewarded, life

is meant for the active, for

only they can catch the fleeting present, while

the passive merely exist, watching the flickering stars at night.

 

Your hourglass empties,

you could only have one grain of sand left,

but you always act as if there are thousands, then

when life ends, we

may say it ended abruptly, but

each wasted day progressed towards the sudden cessation.

 

 

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What Do You Know?

I know two things: I haven’t experienced life as much as I need to and that I’m not who I wish to be.

Too many times I grab a book hoping for some life-changing epiphany. A perfectly constructed sentence that blends into another sentence and another and together it forms a paragraph that is aimed at me, written solely for me which will snap my life into place.

Or so I hope.

Perhaps that’s another thing I know, that I passively hope too much.

I’ve often looked for people who I wish to be like. Great writers, artists, men and women, people who have sacrificed, people who are disciplined and people who work hard. Simple criteria’s. Yet, I fail to emulate such people. They too, like words in a book occupy my thoughts for a little while until some impulse or desire makes me forget about them.

Reminders. That’s another thing I know. I need constant reminders of what I need to do, who I can be, what life can be. I suppose that isn’t too bad after all if Marcus Aurelius needed to remind himself to be calm, to be clear-headed, to treat people with kindness then perhaps we all need reminders in our lives.

Otherwise, I’ll be back where I started. Searching for answers about how I should live my life. Hold my hand and guide me onto the path I should be walking. Correct my wrongs, layout the blueprint for me to copy, let me be you.

If only life was that simple. That easy. Even the simple easy life I currently live isn’t enough because I haven’t earned it.

That’s another thing I know.

I’ve often read how everything you need you already possess or how we need to look inwards and not outwards for answers. For a long time, I didn’t know what this meant but recently I feel like I’m starting to understand. I won’t count this understanding as another thing I know but perhaps I know my feelings and I know to trust my feelings or intuition or whatever you want to call it.

To trust such a thing is simple because your self is always talking to you. When I finish a writing session I feel happy. When I struggle through a workout I feel accomplished. When I do something that I find uncomfortable or difficult I feel proud. When I repeat a habit I’m trying to break I feel shame. When I cheat on my routine I feel guilty. When I lie I feel bad. Immediate feedback follows my actions.

That’s another thing I know: In life, we must act and not be passive.

It’s strange how often we ignore our own voice in order to follow the instructions of others? How come you trust yourself less than you trust someone else? The only person you will ever know completely is yourself, then why not believe in yourself?

Decisions become a little easier if I start to follow my feelings.

My mind tells me what to do and what not to do. My mind tells me that I can be more than I am. It tells me what habits to break, what behaviors to practice. I know I can trust my mind for it knows me, it knows my feelings, it knows my deepest desires and needs.

I suppose that is another thing I know. Perhaps the most important knowledge I have is to trust thyself.

Short Story: A Hero’s Welcome

“I need to talk to God,” I said to the woman.

“What’s that dear?”

“I have to talk to someone. Make a confession,”

“There’s a chapel down the road. The old Priest comes in here every now and then trying to save our souls as he says,” she laughed, “never leaves until we save his first,”

“Is he coming in today?”

“Who knows. Maybe,” The palm of her hands made circles on the mid of my back. Soft hands for what she was. The hands moved up my back and caressed my neck.

“I hope he comes. I need to confess,”

“Confess to me, dear,” she kissed me on the forehead.

“Okay.”

I don’t know how I got there, naked in a tube with a strange woman running her fingers through my hair, telling me it’s all right, that I can call her mother, like I had proposed such a thing to her and she had a soap in her hand and was rubbing it on my chest, each time she swiped down and made contact with the water, some of it splashed up towards my neck. The light in the bathroom was faint as if they didn’t want you to see the picture clearly, maybe if you saw yourself, saw her, you’d think twice and the guilt would make you leave. 

I had to try and remember how I got there which meant I had to look back in my past which meant Barry was waiting for me. His face filled with blood, his eyes straining against his sockets threatening to pop out any moment, saliva coming out of his mouth, clawing the dirt, trying to come at me.

No that was not today. Today was my day. They said they wanted to welcome home the hero so they threw a party for me at the community hall and invited everyone I knew and most people there were people I didn’t know. Mother and father were there, I knew them but they didn’t know me anymore. I remember shaking my father’s hand and thinking how weak he had gotten in the past two years. It was like two decades had gone by since I saw that very same hand waving goodbye at the station. Mother was a crying mess and I remember father had to tell her to stop crying on my uniform. I told her it all right, just as the woman told me it’s all right. What’s the difference between me saying it and her saying it? We both probably didn’t mean it. It was just a thing you said.

Before all of that, I remember being alone in the taxi cab that had picked me up from that station and I told the man to stop by a store. The man working knew me but I didn’t know him. He shook my hand and said it’s all on the house. I took him up on the offer but wanted to crack him over the head with the whiskey when he called me a hero.

The driver and I almost finished that whole bottle before we got to the community center. Before I saw mother and father I saw my sister. She was waiting outside the hall, the snow was falling on her as she blew out a mix of cigarette smoke and the mist from her own breath. She tried to hide the cigarette from me when she saw me get out of the car. She was with her new husband, Stephen, who was an old friend of mine who was probably an acquaintance now that it had been two decades or two years or two minutes since I had seen him.

“You’re late mister,” my little sister, Mary, said and she started to cry on my chest, a little higher to where my mother would soon be crying for Mary had grown in the time I was away.

She went inside to tell mother and father that I was here. I was standing outside in the snow with Stephen who was telling me that he and some of the guys were planning on going out tonight and that I was coming with them and he made a joke about how he wouldn’t take a no for an answer.

“You gonna finish that?” I asked him. He had a drink in his hand which I threw back in a second and wiped my mouth with the sleeve of my uniform before heading through the doors.

“Come right in here General,” the woman said, “and take off your boots.” I took them off and then the socks. The bathroom tiles were cold and the tap squealed as the rush of water drained into the white tub.

She insisted on undressing me. First taking off my coat and hanging it over the bathroom door. She proceeded to untie my tie and unbutton my buttoned shirt. Both went over the coat and I wanted to tell her that’s not how the uniform is meant to be put away but the soft touch of her lips made me forget everything I was thinking. She twirled her finger around the crisscrossed pattern of the shrapnel scar left on my arm and she asked if it hurt when I got it and I nodded.

“Hurt like hell,” I said.

She got on her knees and began tugging on my belt and I told her I could do the rest but she batted my hand away.

“Not every day do you get to service a hero,” she said smiling and for a moment her red lips reminded me of Jessica Owens and I asked her if she was Jessica for the days’ liquor had clouded my mind worse than it normally was. She said she can be whoever I liked.

Did I tell you about Jessica? She was at the party and she wore a tight dress that showed her figure and she had bright red lipstick on. I knew the moment I saw her that she would be mine. I don’t mean it in an arrogant way it was just that this party was for me and everyone was calling me a hero and I even had some patches stitched into my uniform which I could make out to be anything I wanted cause none of them knew anything about it or anything about me. My mother had even brought my medal which the army had sent home. Of course, she was going to be mine. I don’t mind remembering her as long as Barry doesn’t come. Her memories are all good, her plump breasts in my hands, her wet lips, her tongue and my tongue, the sound of the jazz music coming from the hall as the two of us were lost within each other in her car. But doesn’t every good thing come to an end? If I remember such a thing then it must mean it didn’t end well so I guess I take back what I said earlier about how I don’t mind remembering her. If only she could have kept her hands on my face or on my neck but she knew I was hers the moment she saw me and it was probably in an arrogant manner. When she tried to get me, really get me, I wasn’t there, it wouldn’t work, it hadn’t worked for a while, and I tried telling her it wasn’t her fault and that I was just too drunk but I could tell by her look that I had let her slip by and that she no longer had me, that she knew me better then anyone knew me at that time.

“I never slept with a hero before,” the woman was saying, “the closest I ever got was this one man who said he saved his nephew from a fire but I don’t believe him.”

“I’m not a hero,”

“Of course you are dear.”

“No. No. No.”

“Don’t be so stubborn,” She felt his scar on his back this time, “proof right here. Here too,” she touched my arm.

“I’m just a coward.”

“You’re friends told me that you’re a general or something,”

“Captain,”

“Well, would they make a coward a captain?”

“They did.”

“Here sit up straight so I can wash you’re back.”

They were there too. Sitting by themselves in the corner of the room as if they had been set there on purpose so people didn’t accidentally see them and have to remember their pain. I couldn’t keep my eyes off of them and I had to go say something.

Barry’s father stood up to embrace me and I felt his care in that hug and if I wasn’t so shameless I would have broken down and started to cry but I kept my illusion going for a bit longer.

“What are you planning on doing now?” He asked as I joined them making sure they couldn’t look me in my eyes cause I heard they can’t lie.

“I haven’t thought much about it, sir.”

“I hope you’re still reading,” Mr. Andrews had once been my English teacher in another lifetime.

“I’m afraid I have fallen behind. But I’ll do so now.”

“That’s understandable. You always had the eye for a good sentence.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Barry wanted to be a fireman.” Mrs. Andrews said softly.

“Yes dear, he did,” Mr. Andrews gently patted her hand. Was that love?

“He would have been a good one too,” she said, “you know he was given a medal for his service.” 

“I know ma’am.”

“Was he a good soldier?”

“Come on dear. Don’t ask such things,”

“I just…wanted to know…”

Mr. Andrews took a deep breath and asked me how the roads were coming here and I told them they were fine.

“Is it still snowing?” 

“Yes, sir.”

“Maybe we should leave before the roads get any worse,” Mrs. Andrews said.

“Would you mind walking us out to our car? I imagine those stairs are awfully slippery and Martha with her hip…”

“It’s not a problem,” I stood up, without looking at Mrs. Andrews he helped her to her feet and the old woman clutched to my right arm as we walked together.

“You know we always liked you, son.” Mr. Andrews said. “Barry did too.”

I didn’t think there was a worse insult than being called a hero but now I heard it. What’s worse than being called a son?

“When we heard that you were coming back we were so happy. Tell him, dear. We were happy weren’t we?”

“Very happy,” Mr. Andrews said.

I helped Mrs. Andrews down the steps and over the sidewalk and the wet parking lot floor to their black Volvo.

“We are your family too okay? Don’t forget that,” Mr. Andrews said through the open window of his driver’s seat. “I will make you a reading list.”

“Yes, sir.”

I think it was just minutes after that I was groping Jessica Owens.

This woman was asking me if I wanted to go to bed now.

“You remember Barry?” I asked her.

“Of course dear,” she played along.

“I saw him die,”

“Well, that doesn’t make you a coward.”

“I saw him die because I was too cowardly to die myself. I took his, no I stole his mask I had to please believe me I had to. The gas was coming and he was going to die anyway. He had been hit in the stomach and in the leg and maybe the shoulder too. He was going to die anyway but why should I die too? Please understand. We needed the masks and Barry had one. He was going to die anyway. Why should I die too? I took his. He begged, I begged, he begged for his life and I begged for my own and he was hurt, bleeding badly. I took the mask from him and he crawled towards me and I crawled away from him and he clawed at my boot and I kicked him away. I should have shot him but I am a coward. He was going to die anyway he was bleeding worse now. He scratched open his throat and I see it, at night I see it again I see it ever since. Make him go away.”

The water was cold and the woman had left long ago. I was alone. My knees were by my chest and my arms wrapped around it a babe lost and scared looking for his mother waiting for her to return.

I got out of the bath and dried himself. I got dressed and left the money on the dressing table for the woman was asleep in the bed. Snow fell on the brim of my officer’s hat and on my uniform. The church bells rang. That’s when I came here to confess to you but you aren’t here. No one is. Just me and Barry. What I wish for is that whiskey bottle that I left in the taxicab for the driver that way I could be alone.

Short Story: Everything Works Itself Out

The death of Katherine Moore overshadowed all other news for the past week. It was mainly due to the gruesome nature of the killing, her body was found littered with knife wounds, but also because she was an up and coming actress. All the news channels and the newspapers used the same professional headshot of hers where she was candidly looking slightly to the left of the camera, getting a profile view of her slender nose and her long blonde hair and her lively eyes, as the newscaster said. They kept referring to her looks as graceful and soft but he didn’t understand that. How could you tell that from a black and white photo? What he did understand was them using words like potential and budding because she had just starred in her second movie which, to him, meant that she was on her way to becoming a relatively successful actress. Because that’s how life worked. It was like a ladder, you have to climb it one step at a time, no skipping, and she had started climbing and eventually her work would have lead her to greater success and so, in that manner, her death was tragic.

“Her life unexpectedly—” The newscaster was saying when his phone rang. He knew it was her but he had ignored her twice already. He waited until the fifth or sixth ring before answering it.

“Yeah ma? I’m in the middle of something so if you can make it quick,”

“Are you feeling well?”

“Yeah ma,”

“Did you eat something?”

“I will soon,”

“Make sure you do and make sure it’s something filling. It’s always good to go into big days—”

“With a full stomach,” he completed her saying, “I know ma and I’ve told you before that those kinds of things don’t matter,”

“Listen, mister, you may have gone to a fancy college but there are something books don’t teach you,”

There was no point arguing with her. Her way of thinking was set so he just grunted in response.

“Good. Eat some almonds and a banana if you’re not too hungry,”

“Okay,” he had hoped that response would be the end of the conversation but she continued.

“Are you feeling well?”

“As fresh as I can be,”

“Wear something nice so Mr. Edwards can be impressed,”

“I’m wearing one of the shirts and ties he got me,”

“That’s a good idea.”

Mr. Edwards gave him birthday presents each year. The present was the same every year. A collared shirt with a matching tie, nothing fancy but a nice gesture. By now, he had five such combinations and in another month he would have six. He wore one of the combinations for this special day.

A dark blue collared shirt, neatly tucked into his trousers, which he had ironed that morning and around his neck, he wore one a checkered pattern tie with various blends of different shades of the colour blue. He made sure to match his shoes with the outfit for Mr. Edwards was an old school kind of man who put weight on a man’s shoes.

“Are you sure today is the day?”

Here it came, her worrying.

“I told you everything is in order,”

“But don’t get too worked up if it doesn’t happen today,”

“Course it’ll happen today, ma, it’s as simple as one plus one equals two. I put in the work and now I’ll get my promotion,”

“Okay, I believe in you—”

“Ma, I gotta get going or else I’ll be late,”

“Oh, sure hun, I was just watching the news. Awful about that girl—”

“Ma, not right now.”

“Okay call me after the meeting,”

He replied with a grunt.

“Okay?”

“Yeah sure, ma,”

“I will talk to you soon then, love you hun,”

“Love you too, ma and don’t worry so much the doc told you not too otherwise you’ll get those headaches again.”

“It’s just in my nature to worry, you know that by now,” she laughed, “but you have a good day now.”

“Oh and ma, I’m thinking about trading in that Volvo for a new car once I get the promotion,”

“That sounds swell but don’t get too upset in case it doesn’t happen today,”

“You gotta have more faith than that,” he said, “well I gotta get going.”

Mr. Edwards was in the middle of asking him if he had finished the report when he placed the completed project on his desk, beside the picture frame of his daughter and grandson.

“Ah, you’re a good man.” Mr. Edwards said.

“I try to be.”

He stood across from Mr. Edwards with his hands behind his back, chest out and chin up for he had read that people like Mr. Edwards picked up on these subtle gestures.

Mr. Edwards pulled the report towards him as he said, “good men are hard to find these days.”

“Are they?”

Mr. Edwards slowly shook his head, “that poor Moore girl has me believing that more than ever before.”

“I saw that on the news this morning but I didn’t watch the whole segment.”

“Worse than you can imagine. The paper went into quite the detail and I was just thinking to myself what kind of madness would have to strike a man to go to those extents.”

“A man? I didn’t know they found the person who did it.”

“No they haven’t reported as much but I’ll bet you a dollar it will be a man at the end of all of this.”

“Yes very unfortunate, apparently she had a bright future.”

“You could tell so by her looks.” Mr. Edwards said, “anyways, take a seat for a moment.”

The expected happened after that. A few thank you’s and handshakes and as he left Mr. Edwards office, the only thought that accompanied him was that of the car brochure that was in his desk drawer. 

“You got the promotion?” She sounded surprised as if it were even up for debate.

“Didn’t I tell you,”

“Did you eat before?”

“Eating right now, ma.” He said as he flipped the brochure page and paused to admire the red convertible BMW. “Who’d have thought I’d get it without eating.”

She chose to ignore that comment.

“I’ll bake some cookies for Mr. Edwards,”

“You don’t have to do that. In fact, don’t do it. It’ll look too desperate.”

“Nonsense, he will love them. I’ll start right after this.”

He flipped the page and grunted in response. He knew there was no point in fighting his mother once her mind was made up.

“They say they’re getting real close to identifying the suspect,”

He grunted in response as he held the phone in-between his ear and shoulder, leaning back, he folded the top corner of the brochure page that he liked.

“Are you sure you didn’t know her?”

“Yeah ma, why would I know some random woman?”

“There’s just something familiar about her,”

“Like I told you before you probably saw her in some dish detergent ad or something,”

“No, I don’t think so,”

“Or maybe at a grocery store,”

He could hear his mother thinking. If she were a poker player she’d be a bad one because every time she was wrestling with some thoughts, she’d take these long inhales and quick exhales like she was hyperventilating. Thinking of poker, he thought it maybe a good idea to go celebrate at the casino.

“Ma, I gotta get going.”

“Huh? Oh,” she had forgotten she was on the phone, he thought, “okay hun, I’ll call you later,”

“Don’t get worked up if I don’t answer, might not be home till late,”

“Where are you going?”

He had rolled up the brochure and batted it around as if he were hitting home runs at the park.

“Going to go celebrate with some friends.”

“Take care, hun, don’t drink and —”

“I know, I know ma, you don’t have to worry about that, I’m not a little kid.”

“You’ll always be to me.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Stay safe.”

“I will, ma.”

It was natural order of things to go celebrate after a progressive step forward and in the same manner, it was natural for him to be in a happy mood with four or five bottles of beer in him and a couple whiskey shots even though he didn’t like whiskey and neither was he fond of beer, drinking itself was something that was on the lower end of his totem pole of fun activities but it was the right thing to do for this occasion.

He went to the bathroom to relieve himself in order to make more room for the liquor and as he was leaving the bathroom stall, he bumped into another man who was coming in.

“Sorry,” he mumbled moving aside to let the man pass.

“Jake?” The man called his name

Jake studied his face for a moment, trying to recall a figure in his memory that resembled this man whose face was half hidden by a patchy beard and the brim of his dirty hat shadowed the other half of his face. Only his eyes were clear which were paler than the rest of his tanned face as if he had been out in the sun for a long time with sunglasses on. He failed his attempt to correctly piece the picture together, an attempt that was made difficult with the liquor that circulated in him.

“Sorry do I know you?”

The man cracked a smile and put a hand on his shoulder. For a second he tried to remember if he had been coming in or going out.

“It’s Roy,” he said, “Roy Campbell. Remember?”

The name was familiar, very much so, but the face was still didn’t match any of his memories of Roy Campbell. It was as if some stranger had picked that name out of a hat in some twisted reality show and now, he could go on living a life that did not belong to him and it was up to people who knew the real Roy to figure out if this one was an imposter or not. If he got it right maybe a camera crew would jump out from the corner.

Roy seemed to have read his mind as he scratched his beard and kept smiling.

“I know I look different right? Haven’t had the time to clean up, you know how it is.”

He didn’t but he said he did.

Roy asked him to wait a moment as he went into the bathroom. He quickly returned and the two of them sat down at Roy’s table. Empty peanut shells littered the round stained wood table, along with a tall glass of water in which the ice has melted adding to the volume in the glass.

Jake reached for a couple peanuts which he cracked open and neatly placed the empty shells in one place before wiping his hands clean away from the table.

“I’ll get us a pitcher,” he said. It was the orderly thing to do when reuniting with an old friend.

“Not for me,” Roy replied, he dug into his back pocket and got out his wallet inside of which was his AA token. “Almost sixty days.”

“That’s great.”

“I just came here to watch the game,” He nodded at the big screen where the Bulls were trailing the Wizards by ten with six minutes to go.

Roy cracked open some peanuts and emptied the shell out in the palm of his hand before tossing them back into his mouth.

“What you been up too?” He asked.

“Just working,”

“Going good?” He chewed, with his eyes fixed on the tv screen.

“Got a promotion today so yeah, going pretty well I say.”

“Big shot over here,” he said, “no I’m kidding, that’s great. How’d you do it?”

The waitress brought him a bottle of beer and refilled Roy’s glass of water.

“What do you mean?”

He took a sip and held on to the bottle to feel its cool temperature run through the nerves of his fingers and into his palm.

“How’d you stick to a place long enough to fool them into giving you a promotion? I tried so many times but I couldn’t hack it. After a few months I would pack my things up and keep on moving. Even now I’m getting the itch to get going, to go somewhere else, to run away in a sense.”

Jake shrugged. He was recalling now why he hadn’t kept up with Roy over the years.

“We can’t all just leave, besides that’s how things are. You put in the work for long enough and you’ll get rewarded. Two plus two equals four.”

He rubbed his eyes with the moisture from the cold bottle. He looked over at the other table where his work colleagues were all talking amongst each other with two pitchers of beer empty and a third halfway done.

“That logic is too simple,” Roy said. Before Jake could reply, Roy changed the subject. “You married yet?”

“Not even close.”

“Really? We all thought you’d be the first one to bite it.”

“Why’s that?”

“I don’t know, you just seemed like the type.”

“Looks like you bit it.”

Roy closed his hand around the glass of water but even through it you could see the pale moon like ring imprint around his finger.

“I was about too,” Roy said, “planned on proposing but then I found out she was cheating on me so I decided to return the ring and get something for myself.”

For Jake, there was nothing worse than hearing about relationship troubles of other people. It was all the same. Someone always felt they were short changed but it was the polite thing to do, to sit there and listen and say encouraging words and tell them how their significant other was a horrible person and he did his part as he drank the bottle empty, his words of encouragement got stronger and his hate towards Roy’s ex grew as well.

“Couldn’t get myself to go to work after that,” Roy explained, “and got let go but that’s a blessing I think.”

“You’ll land on your feet.”

“You think so?”

“Oh I know, we always said Roy was the kind of guy who was going to do big things. You just got to start stepping, you know what I mean?”

“Two plus two equals four.”

“Yeah exactly.”

The game ended and for a brief moment the channel switched the news coverage of the actress’ murder. Roy watched, quietly sipping on his water and as the newscaster began to talk about her promising movie career the channel switched to a football game and Roy shook his head, placing the glass of water down.

“Maybe she deserved it,” Roy said.

“Huh?”

This time Roy shrugged as he leaned back into his chair.

“Who knows what she did to get the guy to act that way.”

“Does that matter?”

“Two plus two, right.”

“What do you mean?” He asked Roy.

“Well, outside the moment of madness, there must have been a catalyst for the person who did that to her and if that catalyst was her then it adds up to it being her fault or at least part of the equation.”

“Man, that’s twisted. I’m sure whoever did it will be caught soon. It’s only a matter of time.”

Roy washed the peanuts down with his water.

Jake had finished another beer and got the urge to use the bathroom again. As he stood up he stumbled a little and caught the back of the chair to stay upright. Roy asked if he had enough and Jake slowly shook his head but even that simple movement caused him to grab the chair.

“Don’t drink much,” Jake explained.

“I can see that. You need help getting up the stairs?”

“I might just head on home.” He squeezed his temple.

“Can’t let you go by yourself. Did you drive here?”

He nodded and immediately regretted it.

“Give me your keys, I’ll drop you off and take the train back.”

He wanted to argue but he didn’t have the will in him to do so and he went to his colleagues and let them know he was headed home and they tried to convince him to stay a bit longer or to take a parting shot, which he did, and after some more pleading and no’s, he was free and together with Roy, he left the bar.

“It’s a bit dirty,” Jack said as they got in his car, “I’m gonna get a new one soon.”

“Maybe a new place too?” Roy asked.

“That’s the plan.”

Jack leaned his head against the cool passenger side window as Roy followed his instructions towards his house. The radio station started to play “wish you were here” by Pink Floyd and he turned the volume up.

“Every time I hear this song it reminds me of Cor,” he said, “remember when he got a standing O for playing this at the talent show? Man could he sing.”

“He’s dead now,” Roy said as if he were commentating on the incoming dark clouds which gathered above them.

“What?” Jake sat up straight and turned the song down. “He’s what?”

“Dead.”

“Stop saying that. I got a letter from him just the other week.”

“A lot can happen in a week.”

“You must be mistaken. I’m talking about O’Connor.”

“I know. He’s dead.”

“Stop talking like that, like it isn’t a big deal like you aren’t talking about something serious. What’s wrong with you?”

“Sorry.”

The song ended and a radio advert of new tires replaced it. Jake turned the radio off.

“You sure?” He asked.

Roy kept his eyes fixed on the road and nodded.

“I got a call from his sister. She was trying to get some old photos of us all. O’Connor never liked pictures so he didn’t keep many.”

“How’d it happen?”

“Just random luck. He smoked some weed that had some other shit in it and he went to sleep and threw up in the middle of the night and it went back down into his lungs. Pretty much drowned in his own vomit.”

“Can’t imagine a worse way to go.”

“He was all alone too. On the road for some gig. That’s the worst way to go. Being all by yourself. I rather die slow and painfully as long as I’m with someone, you know, I couldn’t handle being by myself.”

“I should call his mother.”

Roy nodded in agreement.

“Life can be so chaotic,” he said, “one moment your riding high and good and the next it all goes to shit.”

The rest of the ride was spent in silence except for the occasional directional instructions which he told Roy.

“Make yourself at home.” He said as Roy followed him into his house. “I got some food and drinks in the fridge but not much.” He hurried upstairs, saying that he’d been holding it in for almost an hour now.

Roy went to the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. Upstairs, he could hear Jake walking. The fridge was mostly empty with the exception of a case of beer, some leftover Chinese food and a half-empty bottle of milk. There was an open bag of chips on the kitchen counter and he opted for some of those stale chips. The phone rang and it was Jake’s mother calling as her name flashed on the little screen.

He picked it up.

“Hello, Jake?”

“No ma’am, it’s Roy.”

The woman’s breathing picked up and for a few seconds, she said nothing.

“Roy who?” She managed to say.

“Campbell, ma’am, we met a few times but I don’t blame you for not remembering me.”

“Where’s Jake? Put him on the phone. Please.”

“He’s not here right now.”

He could almost feel her beating heart from the quick exhales.

“Put Jake on the phone.” She said. “Let me talk to him.”

“I can’t right now.”

“Why not? Where is he?”

“He had a little too much to drink, ma’am but don’t worry, I’ll look after him.”

“I’ll come right over. I’m coming over right now.”

“Don’t worry ma’am.”

She finally broke.

“Oh god, Jake, Jakey, oh god. I know what you did. I know it’s you who did it.”

“It’s okay, ma’am, it’s going to be all right. Do you understand?”

“Where’s Jake? Put him on the line.” Her tone became more authoritative like mothers usually are and it reminded him of his own mother and he smiled, sadly to himself, thinking about what his mother would think of him.

“I can’t ma’am.”

“What have you done? What have you done to him?”

“Ma’am you remember that Bob Marley song? Don’t worry, be happy, ma’am you remember?”

He heard Jake walking upstairs again and told the woman he’s got to go now. She was crying. He tried to think of something to say, some comforting words but his mute screams were deafened by the cries of loneliness.

He hung up the phone and disconnected it.