Self Punishment

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
When the ones we love can't condemn us, sometimes we have to do it ourselves.

Submitted: March 11, 2012

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Submitted: March 11, 2012

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He frequented the same diner every Sunday at exactly two o’clock in the afternoon, when the lunch rush was just starting to dissipate and the diner was as placid and as private as a family diner could be. The glass door would swing open and the bell atop the doorframe would cry out, alerting the staff of his presence once again. They all looked on towards the new customer and barely batted a lash at the entrance.

As was the case every single week, there was a new girl wrapped like a vine around his right arm. This one was short, brunette, and perhaps a little bit more giddy than some of the girls he usually brought. She was quite the looker as well, slightly more attractive than average. It was enough to make any other person just slightly jealous, and the girl’s countenance—the devilish gleam in her eyes especially—seemed to suggest that she knew this all too well. Not enough to make her seem arrogant, but enough for her to seem incredibly confident. She knew what she wanted.

She smiled and pointed toward a corner booth and pulled him along behind her towards their seats. He followed slowly with lead in his feet, but didn’t push her away or try to say anything in protest. He simply followed, sat down in the seat closest to the window, and said nothing.

A waitress sighed as she glanced at her watch and realized that it was her shift, and therefore she earned the honor of tending to the couple. No one else showed any emphatic interest in the endeavor anyway, so she probably would have volunteered regardless just to get the job done. At any rate, she pulled out her notebook and flashed a big PR smile in order to lessen the burden of the task that had been forced upon her.

As the waitress approached, he turned and gave her a dull stare. He was dressed much as he usually was: flawlessly. Today he wore a crisp, black dress shirt with the first three buttons undone—as per usual—along with a pair of khaki colored slacks and dark shoes. His hair fell perfectly on top of his head as it shined and framed his features perfectly. His dark green eyes took in her appearance for a moment, as if deciding whether or not she was worth his time. At last, he decided that her presence was suitable and asked his date what she wanted to order.

The order was scribbled down, and the waitress noticed with some humor that he ordered the same meal again—black coffee with a buttered croissant. His date didn’t seem to find anything strange with the meal and she proceeded to ask for the special, remaining completely oblivious. His date smiled and cradled her chin in her hands as she stared across the table and appreciated her most recent prize.

The waitress understood. See, most men were handsome. But this man here was beautiful. His appearance wasn’t overbearing, gruff, or obnoxious. In fact, he was slim in frame and his face was rather delicate looking. His skin looked like a girl’s—smooth, unblemished, and free of any facial hair—, his lashes were long and dark, and his skin seemed to glow in the dim afternoon light that shined through the window. She guessed that he would be called a “pretty boy” by society’s standards, but such a careless description almost seemed to sully his appearance, and pretty soon the waitress found herself blushing.

Before his date noticed, the waitress left the table, leaving the couple by themselves and waiting for their food. His demeanor didn’t change. The bored look in his eyes and his expressionless face remained throughout the entire date, even after their food arrived. He sipped on his coffee, took small bites from his bread, and stared out at the cloudy sky as the girl in front of him prattled on about shopping, her new job, when her birthday was, and other insignificant things that didn’t interest him. But he was well versed in dealing with women, and simply nodded or offered a quiet noise in order to indicate that he was listening.

It was painful to watch from afar: she, completely unaware of the true nature of the icy figure sitting across from her, and he, unwilling to fall victim to her. It continued on like that for forty-five minutes until the time came when she had asked him a question and he had spent two minutes in silence without having responded to her.

The devilish gleam—the confidence that hid behind her overexcited nature—appeared in her eyes and the pleasant smile that she had adorned during this entire date was gone. Even as she called his name, he didn’t respond and kept looking out at the window. Her frustration was burning and her fists were clenched and shaking. Her hands flattened out on the table with a slap and her glare was fiery.

“Have you listened to a word I’ve said this entire time?” she questioned him harshly. “I asked you a question but you haven’t answered me.”

No response. In fact, it was almost as if he were purposefully ignoring her as opposed to being lost in his own mind and daydreaming like she had thought.

Her hand waved in front of his face. “Hello?”

Nothing. He didn’t even blink.

She tried again, this time flailing her hand around faster, her irritation becoming more and more evident. “Look, I did not come here to be ignored,” she frowned. “We’ve only been going out for a few days, you know. I don’t have to keep dating you if this is how you’re going to act. So what do you say?”

For the first time that entire afternoon, emotion flashed in his eyes. His brows furrowed and he quickly grabbed her wrist, stopping the hand that was waving in his face. She flinched, and muttered something about him hurting her, but he wasn’t listening. His face turned dark and he regarded her with nothing short of cruelty.

“You think you’re such a privilege to be with?” he spoke in a low voice. “Tell me, what’s so special about you that I need to feel like I’ve been blessed? You haven’t said a single intelligent thing the entire time we’ve been sitting here, you’re dressed like you’re out for other people’s attention aside from my own”—at this point he gestured toward her low shirt and her high skirt—“and to be completely honest, I got bored. Conceited brats like you come in all the time, and frankly it disgusts me. So do yourself a goddamn favor and just quit it with the attitude. I’m not in the mood today.”

She backed into her seat, her mouth wide in shock and her face revealing horror and abashment. She knew other people in the diner heard that entire exchange, and she was suddenly very aware of their stares.

“How dare you speak to me like that! Who do you think I am, some five-cent chick off a street corner?”

Oh, she had left an opening that was so irresistible, he couldn’t stop from snapping back with a comeback. “Well, you sure do dress like one,” he bit back. “Would you like me to treat you like one, too, or do you have that covered without my help?”

Her rage was quickly morphing into confusion, and the shine in her eyes was due not to confidence and rage, but due to the tears slowly pushing their way out of her tear ducts and clouding her vision. She blinked and allowed one—but only one—to roll down her cheek.

“What is the matter with you?” she whispered. “You were so sweet when we met, what the heck happened? Why are you talking to me like this? I don’t deserve this!” As she shouted that last part of her sentence, she waited for some look of guilt, remorse, or any kind of emotion that she could work with to mend this. But he left her with one final glare of disgust and disinterest, rolled his eyes, and went right back to staring out at the cloudy day.

What came next was expected. The girl grabbed her bottle of water and flung the water so that the contents splashed all over his face. He barely registered the act, and continued staring out the window as he blinked water out of his eyes.

“I hate you, you damn jerk! Go to hell!” She left on that note, stalking out of the diner without another look back at her catastrophe of a date.

For the first time that entire afternoon, he smiled and genuinely laughed.

He left a few bills on the table and walked out of the diner at exactly three o’clock as he did every Sunday. He walked with this head down back to his apartment, ignoring the people and the shadows that passed by him in a blur of colors and noise. He paid no attention to the background music or the scenery. He instead played back the last few words the girl just said to him.

I hate you.

He grinned again. Every Sunday, the dates ended with those words: those ugly, harsh words. He was pleased, and decided that the day hadn’t been a complete waste. He heard those words. He felt them. He had gotten what he wanted.

The journey to his home was pleasant for him as he relished in his victory. It was another job well done if he did say so himself, and he was confident enough in his skills that he would be able to make those same words come out of another girl’s mouth without any real trouble at all. He had become rather skilled at such things for a while. It shouldn’t be a challenge.

He slipped the key into his door and turned the lock, and just like that, his mood switched. His happiness dissipated and the solemn look on his face returned. He had almost forgotten. In all of his excitement, he had almost overlooked the obvious—no, the truth.

He soon occupied the armchair in his den and stood silent for a moment. He would not turn on the television. The radio would not be touched. The book on the table next to him would remain there without having been opened. The only thing of importance to him would be the tape recorder on the coffee table in front of him, and the photo staring down at him from the top of the bookshelf across from him. He sighed, and almost regretted what he had done, and wondered why he had done it. But the tape recorder and the photograph reminded him, and he was filled with determination. He would go through with this. It was his routine. It was what had to happen.

He clutched the tape recorder in trembling hands and pressed play. The entire time, he stared at the photograph on his bookshelf. The tape was silent for a moment, and then a woman’s voice began to speak.

“Hey, Allen. It’s…um…well it’s me. Look…I know this is kind of awkward seeing as how we broke things off, but I wanted to call you and talk to you so we could...well, clean everything up before we part ways completely. This is the last time that I’m going to call you, so I just wanted to say that, in spite of everything that you did to me…I did love you, Allen…I…I forgive you.

He stopped the tape and rewound it. He pressed play once more.

I forgive you.

He did it again.

I forgive you.”

He did it again, and again, and again.

She stared at him from the top of his bookshelf and he kept hearing her voice. He trembled in hatred and shouted through the silence in the apartment.

“No! You don’t…it’s not supposed to be like this. You’re supposed to—”

I forgive you.

No. How could she? After what he said to her and after what he did to her—the only person he ever truly cared about—the last thing she should have been saying was—

I forgive you.

He screamed at her again, glaring at her as she sat at the top of his bookshelf with her kind eyes and her gentle smile that had left him years ago after he went and betrayed them. He begged himself not to cry.

He glared and wished that the voice would change and say something else, say something that he deserved. But it remained constant. The words pushed through the layers of his mind, and left nothing but traces of confusion, leaving him with so many why’s—more than he knew how to deal with. He brought upon the onslaught over and over again, replaying her voice, looking into her eyes, and wondering when the questions would disappear.

After an hour of repeating the tape over and over again, he stopped and set the tape recorder down. It sat on the corner of the glass table and wouldn’t be touched for another week. He leaned back into the seat of his armchair and collected his rushing thoughts and questions before he grabbed his cell phone and flipped through his contacts. He deleted the phone number of the girl he had lunch with today. As he did this, he couldn’t help but recall the fresh feeling of elation that overwhelmed him when his date today spewed forth all of her hatred on him, just as he expected her to. He picked another random woman’s number from his phone and deemed it suitable.

His finger stayed on the call button, and he contemplated whether or not he should call. Did he even dare?

But every week, in that lonely apartment in his large chair, he would stop and think. Maybe I could hear those ugly words just one more time…

He smiled weakly and dialed the number. 


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