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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
It is the end of an era and a deep love affair has come to a sad and necessary conclusion. What will the future hold for this couple?

Submitted: March 02, 2016

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Submitted: March 02, 2016





  "It sure does seem odd being back here and not seeing anybody around, doesn't it?"

  The thin man sat in the center of a slanted and nearly rotted park bench, his elbows pressed against his knees.  He wore large cargo pants, brown boots with steel toes and no laces, and a plain white t-shirt with the sleeves torn off, a small round burn hole in the chest and traces of aged blood stains along the sides.  His hair and his finger nails were both a bit too long and not maintained.  He had pouches beneath his eyes and his lips were chapped.

  To his left sat a warm six pack of Milwaukee's Best and a crumpled package of Basic cigarettes.  To the right was his beloved girl, looking innocent, pure and enticing.  Before him, a pyramid of small evergreen logs were slowly burning inside of a ring of cinder blocks, crackling and hissing, sap oozing from pores.  The sun is nearly asleep for the day and the smoke from the wet fire is repelling mosquitos and other June nuisances.

  "I know it's been a long time since we've been out here, but I could not think of a more fitting place to tell you what I have to say."

  He did not look at her while he spoke, he only stared into the flickering flame, and she did not say a word.  He pulled a can from the plastic ring and lifted the tab with a loud crack, poured some into his mouth and then placed the opened beer on the ground between his feet.  He extracted a bent cigarette from its pack, pulled a wooden match from his leg pocket, struck it across the bench and lit his smoke.

  "You remember the night we met?"

  She did not offer any confirmation.

  "There must have been a hundred and fifty people here that night.  I think Shelly made out with at least fifteen or twenty of them.  Then Josh punched Randy in the face for hitting on Shelly and Meat passed out with his feet by the fire and literally melted the soles of his Converse off before anyone noticed the smell.  It took three of us to pull him away from the heat."

  He laughed at his own recollection, guzzled down a good half or more of his beer, and quietly puffed at his cigarette for a while.  The man then looked toward her for the first time, but only for an instant.  He was not feeling strong enough to observe her for very long.  He scratched his forearm and shifted in the discomfort of the old seat.  His palms were beginning to feel a bit clammy and his eyes felt dry.

  "You came to me at the perfect time in my life, just when I needed you the most.  I was fresh out of jail for getting revoked after drinking while on probation for that old disorderly conduct charge.  I was broke and jobless, my parents wouldn't give me money anymore, and I was crashing in Meat's basement because Trish had moved some other ex-convict in as her new boyfriend while I was gone.  Then she let my car get repossessed and filed for a restraining order so that I couldn't even go get my stuff.  Two years her and I were together!  Then I go away for four measly months and she couldn't even wait for me."

  The man shook his head in disgust and finished his smoke, flicking the butte into the campfire.  He felt a jagged lump of phlegm collecting at the rear of his throat and after failing at attempts to cough it out, he used the remainder of his beer to wash it down and them immediately opened another.  He heard footsteps approaching from behind him but when he looked, there was no one there.  He shifted in his seat once again.  His back was sore.

  "Anyways, you know all about how down and out I was.  Then you came along and changed everything.  As soon as we met I knew everything was going to be alright.  They say that love at first sight is only a myth in the minds of hopeless romantics, but after you, I know better.  You and I were a perfect fit right form the start."

  He turned to her and smiled.  She did not return the smile and he quickly looked away.  His belief that speaking fondly of their first encounter would dilute the obvious tension between the two was not proving to be accurate.  She seemed to be making this even more difficult than he had anticipated.  He dragged his finger nails up and down his forearm again, this time the other one.

  "In the beginning, as long as I had you around, both my friends and some people who I never even used to hang out with seemed to always want to party with me.  I guess before I had you, my depression was becoming a drag on everybody around me.  You were able to lift my spirits, though.  I will always be thankful to you for that.  Even my mom and dad, who had never met you, could see that I was happily in love.  Yeah, for a while everything really was roses, wasn't it?"

  Again, his question did not warrant an answer.  She remained silent.  He ignited the end of another smoke, pulling a cloud of sand dust as far into shallow lungs as he could and then exhaling audibly.  He licked at some white dryness which had accumulated at the corner of his lips and used a long, gulping drink of what seemed to be sour beer to remedy the state of cotton mouth.  He stayed quiet, ignored the foot steps this time, and fidgeted occasionally while he smoked.  He was getting hot despite the mild temperature.

  "Boy, it sure didn't take very long for all of them so called friends to go their separate ways did it?  It was like they vanished as soon as they decided that they weren't into you so much after all.  I guess they didn't care about any loyalty to me.  It's like they couldn't stand seeing me happy.  Even Meat stopped letting me stay in the basement, and we grew up together.  It's a good thing Greg let me live with him in his grandma's garage.  At least Greg still liked you.  Sometimes I think he liked you even more than I did.  I wasn't jealous though."

  He paused and took time to finish his second can before moving on to a third.  He reached for another cigarette only to find that no more remained.  So he crumpled the empty pack with shaky hands and tossed it into the fire, watching the cellophane shrivel and melt amidst a turquoise flame.  His breaths were getting shorter now and he was sweating.  He could fell the drops tricking and tickling beneath his shirt, from his armpits down to his waist.

  "I didn't care that they stopped hanging out with me, you were more important than them anyway.  The only thing that did upset me was when my parents stopped talking to me for no apparent reason.  I mean, I did steal that twenty bucks from Mom's purse on Christmas, but they didn't find out about that.  They just said I couldn't come around or call anymore because they thought you were a bad influence on me.  How ridiculous is that?  I know, I tried telling them that I make my own decisions and you don't influence my choices at all, but they weren't buying it.  I tried to stick up for you because you were always there for me, but nobody would listen."

  The pyramid of logs had finally dried out and been scorched enough to collapse, causing sparks to scatter and dance into the air, twisting and weaving about, and the man watched in fascination until they could be seen no more.  Somewhere in the distance a coyote yipped and an owl who'd and they both sounded much closer than they actually were.  The man, experiencing an unquenchable thirst, tilted his beer until not a drop remained and he belched loudly before cracking open another can and scratching at his arm.

  "Well, it is what it is, I guess.  People just couldn't comprehend the sort of connection I felt to you or how intimate we were.  I mean, you are a part of me.  You're in my blood and my heart beats for you.  I love you so much that I feel like I can't live without you.  When you're not around, I literally get nauseous.  You and I have been through so much together, the good and the bad.  I will always love you."

  His dry eyes were now shedding tears and his nose began to run and the base of his neck throbbed.  He felt himself on the verge of hyperventilating, or perhaps passing out.  There was a shadowy movement in his peripheral vision and he jerked his head to the side in an attempt to catch sight of the source.  There was nothing there.  He was suddenly cold and his stomach muscles tensed as bile rose through his esophagus.  He washed it down with a swallow from the can and then forced his breathing to slow.  He knew that the end was near and that he could not procrastinate any longer.  He could not gain enough organized thoughts to continue.  He decided upon a direct route and speedily spit out his purpose without allowing an instant for reconsideration.

  "I brought you here to tell you that it's over."

  He paused and she did not acknowledge his stance.  She did not cry, she did not protest and she did not run away.

  "It's not that I've stopped loving you or regret the time we've spent together or anything like that.  It's just that, well, I'm sick, you see.  Did you know that?"

  She didn't answer.

  "Well, it's okay if you didn't.  I only recently found out myself.  It's a terrible sickness.  They said that if I don't fix it before it's too late, then I am guaranteed to die.  I guess there's no absolute cure for it, but there is a way to stop the disease from advancing.  I guess there's a special place all the way out in California that can help me, and my parents have agreed to pay for the treatment.  I fly out tomorrow morning."

  The thin man cried openly for quite some time.  Although he had experienced the devastation and mourning that always comes with the death of a committed relationship before, none have been so hard to accept as this.  This was definitely the big one.  Yet, he now truly realized how much he was dedicated to the girl and knew without any doubt that the unhealthy affair needed to be left behind.  He swatted at the bug he had noticed crawling up the back of his neck but felt no corpse tumbling down his spine.  He fought off the sadness and regained a shred of composure and finished yet another beer before staring directly at her and speaking once more.

  "I'm sure going to miss you."

  That being said, he reached over to his right, picked up what remained of his last bag of heroin, and tossed it into the fire.


Copyrighted 2016 Jason Crager

All Rights Reserved


© Copyright 2019 Jason Crager. All rights reserved.

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