Cam & Jessica

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
Yo half of this conversation I had with my best friend before she died. I think she'd appreciate this.

Submitted: September 06, 2016

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Submitted: September 06, 2016

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Cam takes the last swig of his beer and crumples the can in his fist, he sets the mess down on the ground next to him and Jessica can’t help but think, That’s me. That’s him. No, it’s both of us. She looks up at him and finds that he’s staring at her. He’s got that look in his eyes; the one that is equal parts awe and fascination. She can’t stand seeing it so she looks away, across the trees at the setting sun.

Cam sighs and rubs his arms, there’s goosebumps rising now. He can feel them when he moves his palm. He isn’t sure if they’re because of the cool breeze or because of Jessica. He thinks maybe it’s a mix of both. Jessica wants to tell him to get a coat, wants to call him a dumbass but she feels like it might be out of place now.

“You know,” Cam starts, pausing to clear his throat. “When I first met you, I could have sworn you cried gold.” He stops and takes a deep breath, his voice is shaking. “I don’t really know why I’m here. I don’t remember when I decided to come here.”

Jessica huffs a laugh, a small breath of air out of her noise, but doesn’t say anything. She’s still looking out across the trees. Cam looks down at his hands and starts picking at a stray bit of skin by his thumbnail. He knows he shouldn’t be doing it but the silence is so loud.

Jessica turns her head towards him, finally. She doesn’t say anything but she takes in his profile. His eyes are darker and his hair hasn’t been washed in days, it’s greasy from running dirty fingers through it. She wonders briefly if he’s like this because of her but shuts that thought down fast before it spreads into something it isn’t.

She thinks back, to before all of this and before everything went out of whack, and she tries to remember the last time she ever really saw him smile. Last year, they went oyster diving but only found empty shells and at the time it didn’t mean anything. But now she thinks it does. Cam looks like an empty shell.

He brings his thumb up to his mouth, starts chewing on his nail and she wants to swat his hand away. She doesn’t though. Instead she pulls her jacket tighter around her body and looks back at the trees.

There’s a few moments of silence where the only sounds are Cam’s teeth cutting into his nail and the cars along the main road. It’s getting really dark now and Jessica wonders if maybe they should get down from the roof. She doesn’t move though.

“I loved you, you know,”

Jessica’s voice startles Cam out of his nail-biting stupor and he slowly lowers his hand. This is what he has been waiting for. He waits for her to look at him and when she does he’s taken aback by the emotion on her face. He can’t quite place it but it makes him feel like a void has opened up inside of her and he’s being sucked into it. But then, he reasons, he feels that way whenever he looks at her. No matter the situation.

Jessica blinks owlishly at him and it snaps him out of his daze.

“Then why did you leave?” he asks, not unkindly and not really expecting her to explain. It’s been four months, she hadn’t given him a reason when she gave him his house key back and he doubts she’ll give him one now. He deserves to be told why but he’s accepted by now that he’ll never know.

Except, Jessica heaves a sigh and her eyes turn downward. Cam’s still staring at her, waiting for an answer and she lifts her head. “Everyone dies.”

Cam blinks. He’s confused. He’s sure she knows that and can tell by the look on his face so he waits for her to continue but she doesn’t.

“Yeah. Everyone dies, Jessie, but what does that have to do with us?”

She doesn’t blame him for not understanding.

“I am constantly scared. I worry all the time about not knowing.” She pauses to gather her thoughts. “I worry that one day my sister will get hit by a car on her way to school, maybe she won’t die then but she might whilst in the ambulance on the way to hospital.”

Cam opens his mouth to say something but Jessica barrels on over him.

“’I worry that my mom will die in her sleep and no one will be there to hold her hand and tell her it’s okay. I’m scared that there’ll be a fire and someone I love, maybe you! Will be trapped inside and a wood beam falls on their head, knocking them out and they’ll inhale so much smoke they won’t be able to breathe.” She’s breathless by the time she stops talking. She needs him to understand but she isn’t sure he will. Still, she hopes.

Cam doesn’t say anything. He’s trying to take in everything she’s said. He seems to have taken too long because Jessica starts talking again.

“I think our bodies can sense when death is heading for us. I think we might feel it a while before it arrives and not realize.” She is aware of how crazy that sounds. “Maybe that is why mine has begun to give up on itself.”

Cam sucks in a breath. He immediately understands. They’ve never talked about it before. He’s wanted to but has never been too sure of how to start. How do you ask someone what it’s like to be dying?

“Ludicrous,” Is all he says. “That’s ludicrous. I think you’re reaching for something to try and make the fact that you have cancer okay.”

Jessica laughs, a real laugh this time. One Cam hasn’t heard since before the diagnosis. He loves the sound; the way it tinkles and fills a room. They’re not in a room though so the noise just echoes over the trees and into the night. He hopes the moon can appreciate the beauty of it.

“It’s okay,” She says, laying a land on his arm. He can’t help but stare down at it. She moves it. “It doesn’t hurt. And if death is heading for me, it is the first time anyone has taken the initiative with me. I deserve that, don’t I?”

Cam nods. “You do, yes. But you won’t let me, nor anyone else do it for you.”

Jessica quirks her lips. He’s right and she knows it. She has never let anyone take the first step, has always been the one to do it. Maybe she likes being bold in that way or maybe she just doesn’t know how to let them come to her.

“I don’t know. I just don’t feel real anymore.”

If Cam notices the subject change, he doesn’t say anything. Jessica is grateful for that. He watches her hold a hand out in front of her eyes, really close, like she’s trying to look for a lifeline there but is unable to find it. He’s tried to tell her before that he’s never known anything more real than her, and he’s seen roaches run around headless and his neighbor shoot someone before. She wouldn’t have any of it, though. Never believed him when he said it. She was convinced that when she rubbed her eyes and found lashes clinging to her fingers, it was because she was dissolving one microscopic cell at a time. And, Cam supposes, really, she was right. But he’d never tell her that.

Jessica scratches at her right elbow and Cam watches as several flakes of skin take the opportunity to fall and fly away into the breeze, off to roam with the wind.

“You know you are though, I can touch you and things so doesn’t that make you real?” He says, and Jessica inclines her head solemnly.

“Yes,” She pauses. “I guess it does. But it doesn’t mean you are.”

Cam knows where this is going. She’s said things like this before. Where she’s unsure if his existence is physical or just caused by the tumor.

He sits with his mouth slightly agape, sure that he’s even uglier than usual and wants to say something to defend his own life. He wants to say something so powerful that it would bring the entire conversation to a close all at once; perhaps make Jessica believe that his pulse is more faithful than the last person she took to bed. But he can’t think of anything. So he blows hot air out of his mouth and stays silent.

“It’s okay, I know you think I’m crazy. I just-“

“I don’t think you’re crazy, Jessica!” Cam interrupts. “I know why you think that and I understand.”

Jessica just looks at him and sighs sympathetically. “But I don’t want to talk about you maybe not being real, we’ll get into an argument and I don’t want that.”

Cam nods and turns to look over the trees, he can see the moon and when he looks at Jessica, he can’t help but notice how exquisite she is in the moonlight. He loves her and he knows she loves him once, he’s happy with that knowledge.

The truth is that sometimes even he doesn’t believe she is real. And that’s because of her beauty. She is so impossibly exquisite that Cam is convinced that she must be something from another planet or maybe from the heavens, he hasn’t come to a conclusion yet. He hopes she isn’t. But if she is, well, what does that say about him?

Jessica lies back on the roof and rests her head on her forearms. “I was thinking about death.”

Cam’s attention snaps right back to her. “What?”

“Not like that, I’m just wondering whether it’ll hurt.”

Cam shakes his head. “It wouldn’t. I’m telling you, it wouldn’t. It’s probably like sticking your hand into the freezer and letting frostbite release you of all sensation.”

Jessica raises herself up onto her elbows and looks at Cam who is now absentmindedly picking at the hem of his shirt. She waits for him to notice her and when he does, he gives a little laugh.

“You’re wrong.”

Cam frowns. “What? It’s just my theory. Aren’t I allowed my own theory on death?”

“I guess,” She says, shrugging. “Do you want to hear mine?”

Cam nods, of course he does. “How do you think it feels to die?”

Jessica sits up and crosses her legs, she spends a while examining her fingers before raising her head and locking her eyes with Cam’s.

“I think it hurts something dreadful. And it doesn’t matter how you go, even if you die in your sleep when you’re old and lacking self-restraint, it hurts. It hurts like hell. And the thing is, it doesn’t just hurt the person who is dying. All around the world, wherever they are, everyone they’ve ever known, they feel it too. It probably feels like something has been ripped out of their chest.”

Cam shifts a little, feeling a bit uncomfortable but curious at the same time. He gets a rush when he realizes it’s a feeling he used to get around her all the time.

“It just happens, randomly. In the middle of the day, in the midst of the most mundane activities. They’re making coffee, doing yoga, having sex. It doesn’t matter. They feel it. Subconsciously, they know they’ve just lost someone. So the coffee is too cold and the sex doesn’t lead to orgasm. The pain itself probably doesn’t last very long and maybe they don’t even feel it sometimes.”

She trails off for a second and glances across at Cam who’s staring at her.

“It’s like a sympathetic death then, I guess. They slip away just as the person who’s dying does too. The only difference is that they get to come back.”

There’s a long silence following her statement during which time Cam is staring at her, wide eyed. Then he gets up and starts to climb down the ladder and disappears in through the window to her bedroom. When Jessica tumbles through it a minute and a half later, he’s standing at the desk on the opposite wall, leaning back against it and wringing his hands all over the place.

“You’re fucked up, you know that?” Is the first thing he says.

Jessica cringes.

“No, I mean, you are really fucked up. Just, no! That’s so wrong. I don’t want to feel it when all the people I’ve ever loved die. Jesus Christ, Jess.” He runs a hand through his hair, fast. “Why would you say that? Now every time my coffee is too bitter or I have a cough, I’ll think somebody has died. Whenever I get heartburn or indigestion, I’ll worry about my mother and it’ll be nothing. Goddammit. Thank you for that.”

He slams his fist down onto the desk and Jessica looks over at him. She grins, her teeth showing, and the sight sends a shiver down Cam’s spine. She looks deranged.

“Aren’t I allowed my own theory on death?”

And with that, she opens the door she was leaning against and disappears through it. Cam can hear her walking down the wooden stairs and into the room below him. A second later, the sound of voices on the TV wafts up to him and he feels sick to his stomach.

He takes a moment to collect himself and then starts down the stairs.


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