I’d like to apologize for not uploading chapter 3 on Wednesday, as I should have. Once I was off work at 3:00 I went straight on to a five-hour drive to visit my mom. This weekend has been an incredible rush of nostalgia, revisiting my alma mater Texas Tech and catching up with friends, professors, and teammates. That’s no excuse for not sticking to my schedule, though, and I’ll try my hardest to post a blog in advance should I have to push back a chapter by one or two days.
Voices everywhere, but I don’t care.
I wander into the cafeteria, wondering what to eat.
I’m not hungry, could care less if I ate a turkey sandwich or a pizza wrap.
Since nothing really sounds good, I keep walking across the cafeteria until I reach the table with Jose and Kristina, who look up as I throw off my backpack and sit down.
“Rough day?” Jose notes, looking concerned.
I look away. “Hell.”
“Aw, poor Ross,” Kristina smiles at me and gives me a quick hug. “I was surprised; you’re in AP now. It’s more work, and my wrist always hurts from writing. But you’re good at it, so you shouldn’t have a problem getting used to it. Greenly is so old though.”
“Thanks.” I snort, always fascinated with how many diverging paths her sentences can take. Kristina is usually good at cheering people up, but sometimes she can bring them down pretty hard when you piss her off.
“Wanna talk about it?” she asks me, trying to make more direct eye contact. I shake my head.
“No, I’m good.” Of course I’m really not though.
As I stare around the cafeteria at people I don’t know, I suddenly get angry. Like a deep, raging, hateful anger.
Why do I have to have C lunch? The last lunch of the day, which doesn’t even start until 1:05, and by then I’m starving. I hate C lunch. I only know a few people in it, and the food is always running so low that I can kiss cookies or cheese sticks from the snack bar goodbye if I don’t get in line right away. Shit, A lunch was the best last semester. Jose and Chris and the other track guys were always there and we’d always get a table under the pavilion, talking about random stuff. Now I only have two people from English and track to sit and talk with.
I hate it all.
Deciding food isn’t doing anything for me, I stand up and jerk my backpack over my shoulder. “I’ll see you guys later.”
“Hope you feel better,” Kristina says, sounding wounded. What little pity I feel just motivates me to get outside faster, before I blow up on someone who doesn’t deserve my rage.
It’s still not raining yet, although I can feel a few cold sprinkles on my face as I head to speech, my mind on autopilot. After all, I can’t think about anything right now. Just ask myself, Why, why, why?
The first thing Mark says to me when he opens the door is, “Hey bro. You look bad. What’s wrong?”
I know exactly what I look like: the face I saw in the rearview mirror as I drove over here after track nearly made me sick to my stomach. My eyes were burning holes, practically glazed over with anguish. My lips were curled down into the sad scowl of a little kid that had just been cut in front of in line for the first time.
“Can I come in?” I say, trying not to grind my teeth. I feel vulnerable standing on this small porch, insignificant and childlike with the rocking chair against the wall and the kitty cat welcome mat at my feet.
“Yeah, sure,” he says, backing up and blinking.
“I’m sorry I look shitty,” I mutter as he closes the door and I stand in his living room. “I had a rough day.”
“What happened?” he asks me, crossing the living room and standing at the entrance to the kitchen. The way I had been sprinting all throughout track practice, everyone knew I wasn’t myself.
I shake my head and suck down the urge to vomit. “Let’s just do your paper first. I know you want to get it done.”
“Sure,” he says, and he leads me over to his desk in the corner. His computer rig is nice, one he made himself back when he had a few friends in our computer maintenance club. I think that Mark finds a lot of solace in his technology, especially when he has to face things like Adriana’s rejection.
Onscreen the document is already pulled up, and I plop down in Mark’s seat without a word. Taking a moment to get comfortable and focus, I look at the paper and read the topic, which is the only thing Mark’s typed out so far. It reads, “Describe one major stressor that can affect any teenager. Have you or do you know someone who has undergone this sort of problem?
I read it again and sit back, glancing sideways at Mark. He furrows his eyebrows and says, “I mean, I have some ideas, but I have no clue if she wants something specific.”
I just shake my head. “No, she probably doesn’t. But, honestly dude, I think this is one you just have to do on your own. I can’t talk about your feelings for you.”
“But I can’t fill three pages,” he whines, walking over to the table and picking up his drum sticks. “Besides, I don’t want to think so much about what stresses me out. You know what stresses me out.”
“I do,” I sigh, leaning back. The irony is like a chisel being driven into my brain. I laugh and put my fists over my eyes. “Fuckin’ perfect timing.”
I shake my head. “Ana.”
Mark, who sat by me and started drumming on the table, stops and lets the drum stick slip from between his index and middle fingers. “What? Oh, no. Did you guys…?”
“Yes,” I say, my voice surprisingly level. “It’s over, man. We broke up.”
“Oh. Shit man,” he says, folding his arms and looking sympathetic. “I’m sorry, bro. I didn’t think something like that would happen now, of all times. Right after New Year’s.”
I just smile and look away, not having the heart to tell him that something like that didn’t even matter. Or maybe it did. I’m not sure. Ana never seemed to be a girl too concerned with timing and “special” moments.
“I know man,” I say, feeling winded, “but we fell out of love. Just wasn’t working out.”
Staring off through the window next to his desk, a grimy view of the glaring afternoon sun shining between passing thunder clouds, I tell him another lie. “We felt the same about it.” Then the truth. “At least, I want to think so.”
Without waiting for him to answer, I turn back to the computer and start typing. It’s scary, the way my fingers fly across the keyboard, but I know exactly what I’m pounding out. I weave sentence after sentence, building up to a thesis about love in high school. I use nothing but matter-of-fact and, for validity on Mark’s behalf, simplistic words. I reach beyond the simple “sad” and “wonderful” emotions, grasping for the fluidity a relationship has. How damn hard it is to maintain, especially if the other person’s commitment is a mystery. Doesn’t matter if you’re gay, straight, popular, selfish. Someone is going to play you off and break your heart.
“Man, look at you go,” Mark says, sounding amazed as he watches me. “God, if I could get my words out half as fast as you do.”
“You don’t want to,” I say, as the clouds shut out the sun again and a much heavier rain begins to fall. “When you can think of every right word. It’s hell.”
When I get home and open the back door, my cloths soaked by the now torrential downpour of rain, I pull off my backpack and hurl it as hard as I can against the living room wall.
“Dammit!” I don’t even bother trying to control my voice. I scream my head off and bang my fists against the wall, making the pictures of my family rattle. I’m not even wondering why Analise broke up with me anymore. I just want to scream and hit until I get this anger out of me.
I turn and face the coffee table in the living room. There the invitation for The Rivière sits.
I grab the card and tear it once, twice, and over and over until my fingers are on fire. I drop the pieces and punch the couch, wanting to shatter it to splinters and stuffing.
Finally, after a couple of minutes of rampaging and hitting everything I can, I stop and slide down against the hallway wall. Now that the wrath is all out, my id a little less in control, I let myself feel drained.
I think back to the time at the football game in November, when Ana and I had sat down by the side of the concession stand just looking up at the starry sky as the game went on after halftime. She started singing a Death Cab for Cutie song about shooting stars and satellites, and I told her I loved her.
I remember being her source of comfort after my last race at our fall meet, when she’d gotten out of a volleyball game and been hit with the news that her aunt had died in a car wreck. Still sweating and breathing, I remember how the tears had rolled down her cheeks as she tried to swallow her sobs, the two of us at the edge of the stadium where fewer people could see her. Looking into her eyes, I reached forward and wrapped my arms around her, letting her cry into my chest and wondering if there was such a thing as comfort in death.
Staring down at the carpet and glad that my parents aren’t home yet, I begin to cry without a sound. It’s quick; I get it over within a minute. Then there are no more tears, and for that I’m thankful.
I head to my room and crash out on my bed. I don’t think about homework, or track, or food, or even Analise. I just let my mind grow numb, wish for sleep, and then I’m out.
Sometime during the night mom knocks on my door and opens it a crack, a thin strip of light shining in my half-open eye.
“Hey hon, I’m home,” she whispers, and I mutter something in response, still half asleep.
“Did you hear about Eduardo? It made landfall a couple of hours ago.”
I open my eyes a little wider. “Oh…where?”
“Galveston and a few other cities. The system is all across the southeast. A category two. They said on the ten o’ clock news that it’s still strong and moving toward San Antonio.”
Coming to my senses, I become aware of rain pattering against my window.
“Hmm, wow,” I say, turning over and pulling a pillow over my head.
“Yeah. Just thought I’d let you know,” mom says, “Thank goodness it missed us, huh?”
I let out a wheezy laugh, wondering if she really believes that I dodged a bullet today. “That’s true. I’m happy for that.”
“Alright. Goodnight Ross.”
“Night,” I murmur, and as she closes my door I let the dark cradle me.
The rest of the night I dream about tornadoes, a bunch of them touching down on our cul-de-sac, except all the houses have disappeared. It doesn’t make sense, but I guess my mind is filling in the blanks, since I’ve never been in a hurricane. I’m standing in an open field, watching the dark swirling masses spinning every which way when I see Analise step out from the nearest funnel, just walk right out of it. She looks at me, her face contorted with sadness. Then I’m dreaming no more, only sleeping in the void.