Echo and Naricussus: Love on the Island of Lost Boys

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

First Chapter of my novella/ independent short story.

I parked my car in the back lot of my apartment in a spot that was too small. Turning off the car, I thought about that Queen and those Jacks. I had lost the hold’em tournament because of too many Jacks and not enough Queens.  The parking lot’s street lamp cast my shadow into the windshield and I stared back at it. The outlines of the shadow seemed clear compared to the rest of the darkness outside my door.  As I stared deeper my eyes adjusted to the night and the colors of the shade grew more complex. Life is simpler when your shadow is front of you.

I stepped out of the car and looked down. My shadow had faded back into the night leaving me alone with my thoughts and the car that was barreling towards me. The high beams from the car overpowered my sight as I awaited impact. My eyes looked around but all I saw was white. In neither the light nor the dark could I see in front of me.

My eyes adjusted to see my neighbor Monique’s white dwarf of a Toyota. Monique and I were part of the same club on campus. The club was divided into two teams. She was on the A team, the team with everyone, who took it too seriously. I was on the B team with everyone who took it too seriously but weren’t good enough to be part of the A team. We had talked before whenever our paths crossed.  We were even Facebook friends. I had no idea who she was.

From talk around the club, I knew she graduated last year and was working full time. From her status updates, I knew she was studying for some test. From my downstairs neighbors, Avi and Hannah, I knew she cried in her car at night whenever she got back from wherever she went. From, the paper thins walls of our apartment complex I knew she fought with her boyfriend. Her information echoed through my life.  

I sided stepped the car continuing on to my apartment to ponder my loneliness alone. She rolled down her window. “Oh my God. Jack I am so sorry.” Through the darkness her face was a mix of sadness and anger with an air of distraught. We had been neighbors for a couple weeks now and I already knew this was a common look for her. I shrugged this encounter off but when I looked into her eyes I saw something that caught me off guard. What I saw lead me to look a second longer and to say “No problem. How is it going?”

She took a second. “I am fine, I am just about to go study in my room.”

“Well that sounds lame. Why don’t you come over and chill for a bit.”

“I really shouldn’t. I have to study.”

“Do you really?”

“I guess it wouldn’t hurt. And I do want to see if your place is bigger than mine.”  

The encounter left me stunned. I walked up to my apartment in a daze and turned on the two lights I owned. I got out some wine and managed to splash it on myself as I popped the cork. I threw my laundry into the hamper and tried to push the rest of the mess away. My back was turned and my mental checklist was racing when I heard a knock at my door. 

Through the peephole, I could see Monique standing in the hall slightly less distressed than when I had first seen her. The door frame framed her soft brown eyes, jet black hair, and shirt showing enough cleavage to make me think about what it meant.

 “Come in.” I tried to say as smoothly as I could. She was the first person that had come over to my apartment in a while and her beauty that I had tried to ignore seemed to become more defined by the shadows that outlined it.

“Your place is way bigger than mine. Is that why you picked it?”

“I don’t know about that and honestly I didn’t pick it.”

“What do you mean?”

“Grab a seat, you want some wine?” I motioned to my finest lawn chair and walked over to the counter for a glass of wine, a drink I kept around for this specific imaginary scenario.

She laughed sincerely. “Yeah I could use a bottle.”

I poured the wine into two red cups and grabbed the bean bag across from her. She looked around taking in my apartment. “Are you going to tell me? Did some girl pick it for you?”

“I wish. No, my homie showed me a craigslist ad for this place, but when I went to check it out I went to the place across the street, thinking that was the place I would be renting. I honestly didn’t know this was the place I rented till I moved in.”

“That is ridiculous. I picked this complex when I realized I was going to stay here and work. I waited for the best deal and the most secure spot just before everyone left for summer.”

“Yeah I can’t believe we moved right next door to each other without ever hanging out before this.”

“I had been meaning to come over but I have been so busy with work and studying.” She didn’t need to excuse herself for ignoring me. 

“No worries. Yeah I didn’t realize you lived here till Avi told me.”

“Yeah I love Avi and Hannah so much. They are so cute together.”

I didn’t know if it was me or the situation but I felt compelled to cut to the heart of the matter. “Yeah they like you to from what they tell me. They are just a little worried about you crying in your car.” 

This seemed to catch her off guard. She turned her head and looked up at me with those bright eyes and the emotion that she hid within the depth of those deep dark eyes poured out. 

“I didn’t know I was that obvious.”

She attempted a smile but it fell into the shadows of her face.

“I just can’t get the score I know I am capable of. I study all the time and I can’t get above the 50% percentile of scorers. I know I can do better. I have to do better. What else am I going to do with my life? This score determines what school I get into. Which determines what jobs I get offered. I thought it would be over with the SAT but it is never over. All of this to end up as a house wife? And I may not even end up as that.”

She wasn’t wailing but she was crying. The situation perplexed me. How do I respond? We were sitting down so going over and giving her a hug wasn’t an option or was it? I sat there trying to stay focused on what she was saying, but my eyes kept drifting past her tears to those two brown pools that seemed to get deeper with each tear. She looked up at me for help. I panicked and begin rambling.

“Monique, why do you care? Look at yourself your one of the smartest people I know. Not only that but you are one of the most beautiful girls in the most beautiful place in the world. How can you be sad about a future that doesn’t exist yet?”

I looked up at her but her face was blank.

“Of course you will go to a great school and if you don’t who gives a damn. How can you be sad when you already have a job and you graduated from a great school?”

I just stared into her eyes and said everything I wanted to hear myself say. I didn’t know if it was true or not. I didn’t really care. I just knew at that moment all I wanted was to see her smile.

She looked at me and laughed through her tears.

“Do you tell that to all the girls? Your sweet but you can’t really believe all those things you say.”

I paused and felt of bit of confidence and said “I don’t believe all of them but that doesn’t mean they aren’t all true.”

I looked at her but she broke away and looked around my room again.

“I am pretty sure your place is bigger than mine. She stared around commenting on the things I used to define myself. She caught sight of my bong and commented, “I was wondering where that smell came from outside the halls. Do you smoke a lot?”

“Well I can’t take full credit Parker is right next door. I smoke occasionally, I guess. Do you mind if I pack a bowl for myself? I just got back from a long drive.”

“It’s your house do whatever you want. I haven’t smoked in so long. I am such an old woman now.” She said pleadingly but with a self-assurance that seemed misplaced.

“I can’t believe you are still living here.” I said as I entered my routine of grinding and packing.

Her self-assurance seemed to find a home as she talked to me about this place. How she had moved here after she transferred. How she loved everyone around here. She gossiped to me about past roommates and neighbors, and what was happening this year.

She paused and stared at me. “What are you going to do this year?”

“I thought about it, but I have other things I have to do this year.”

“What do you have to do besides keeping to yourself and smoking?”

“Hey, I have a lot of friends that rely on me to keep doing that.”

“You know your shyness hides this self-deprecating confidence.”

Her eyes empowered me to keep the conversation going.

“Your loud mouth and false intelligence hide your beautiful dreams.”

“You know you’re wrong. I am smarter than I look. Many people have told me that. I know every state flower.”

“I doubt it. You willing to bet on that.”

“I am. But what are you willing to bet?” The light reflected her ring into my eyes and blinded my pride.”

The smoke in the room isolated the two from the doors and the windows. Inside of the smoke existed one shot, one frame, one page. A girl sitting above in a grey metal frame lawn chair. The frame of the chair hung a plastic grey black mesh that formed the seat. A boy sat on a black bean bag that he continued to sink into as the moment continued. Between them were two red solo cups at the moment filled with $20 dollar red wine from Food Lion. The cups were on a beige carpet that showed marks of having absorbed spilled red wine before. The borders of the photos on the wall seemed arbitrary to the boundaries between them.  

“Well did you thumb her?”

Kyle leaned back mockingly looking down at me as I shook my head.

“No I bet a dollar. I lost anyway. I always bet a dollar with everyone.”

“You’re a puss. She wanted the dick.”

I looked up at Lauren sitting next to Kyle and both of them shook their heads. She cooed at me “Poor poor Joaquim.” 

Submitted: November 20, 2014

© Copyright 2021 Jack John Kelly. All rights reserved.

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