Tuesday, December 29, 2009

14.) Conundrum

Soundtrack Song - Roses Are Red, Silver Linings

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to go insane? And I don’t mean to get angry and snap and regret it later, because we’ve all done that—and we’ve all been aware that that was what we were doing, even if we couldn’t control it. I mean full-on fucking nuts.

At that moment, I felt like I was really going clinically insane. I was holding my sanity like a handful of sand, and it was slipping through my fingers. Every time I tried to tighten my grip, more grains just sifted through and floated away. I was pissed off, upset, worried, and even a little scared; but the more I tried to distance myself from those feelings, the more intense they became, in some sort of twisted, inverse ratio of emotion to rational behavior.

It was bad enough that Kris had taken me back to my high school. I couldn’t believe it; at first, I thought he had done it on purpose. That was stupid to think, because there was no way he could have known, unless he had done his research. As nosy as he was (and I wouldn’t completely put it past him), I didn’t think that he would do something like that. That would have been way too much. The fact that it was a coincidence.... Well, I was having a lot of trouble chalking everything up to mere coincidences anymore—and that was scaring the shit out of me. I like meaningless randomness and Kris was screwing with all that. I didn’t know how it was possible for one person to get under my skin in the way that only he had.

Making it worse was my dad’s car parked outside my house. I could not deal with that—him—along with everything else. He was hardly ever home, especially during the day. It didn’t make sense, but, then again, a lot of things weren’t making sense right now. Was this another suspicious coincidence? I couldn’t question it, because I couldn’t wrap my crazy mind around the circumstances.

So I asked him to keep driving. I was incredibly annoyed with Kris and his big mouth and I wanted to get away from him, but I was appreciative that he could be understanding when I needed him to be. And I really needed that now, so that’s what he did.

He was silent, and I stared out the window, watching buildings go by but not paying any attention to where we were going. I didn’t care, as long as it was far away from home. Far, far away. I was a specialist in distance—specifically in putting it between me and whatever else.

“Okay, this is it,” he said, pulling me out of my thoughts.

“Huh?” I had been so wrapped up in my thoughts that I hadn't even realized the car had stopped, so lost in my past that I felt like I had lost time.

Kris peered at me like I was crazy. I really was starting to think that I was. “My place.”

“Oh yeah,” I mumbled, vaguely remembering having agreed to that. I tried to forget about the past hour of my life. Thinking about my old life or what could have been is a waste of time, because thinking about it doesn't change anything. It doesn't affect the future, either. My only concern is the present. “You know, you didn’t have to bring me here. I don’t want to impose.”

He barely smiled and replied, “I wouldn’t have offered if I minded.”

I tried to accept his generosity without probing for a reason or explanation and instead wordlessly followed him into his barren, practically empty apartment. “Chez Kristopher,” I said as he held the door open for me. I crossed through the threshold and looked around at the white walls. At least it was clean.

“Be it ever so humble,” he sighed, dumping his wallet and keys on the counter. If a man’s home is supposed to be an insight into his personality, then this place really made Kris seem so plain, ordinary, and... boring. White bread. As distraught as I was feeling, that thought still made me laugh. When I giggled, he said, “What’s so funny?”

“Nothing. I can just tell that you don’t have a girlfriend.”

He gave me a puzzled look. “Really? How did you know that?”

“Well, I guess I first should have known since you invited me here. No one brings a strange girl home, because the girlfriend would rip you a new one.”

Kris laughed. “You do have a point there. You said ‘first.’ Does that mean there’s a second give-away?”

I waved my arms out at my sides. “I can just tell. No pictures, no posters, no decorations. Just a couch and a big screen TV.”

“And what else does a guy need?” he asked rhetorically, heading into the kitchen. “Would you like anything?”

His few words of kindness erased the humor I had found in the situation. If there's one thing that Kris knows how to do, it's how to bring me back to the sad reality of the world. “Not unless you’ve got liquor,” I grumbled, really feeling like I needed a drink. I took off my jacket and threw it over the back of the couch.

“Nope, sorry. I’ve got water, water, and... water.” He grabbed two bottles from the refrigerator, walked into the living room, and handed one to me as he sat down on the couch. Not knowing what to do, I sat down beside him and took a drink. When I placed the cap back on the bottle, I glanced over at Kris, and he blushed and looked away.



“No, what?” I asked, wondering why he was looking at me like that. It both irritated and intrigued me, which was a strange combination but I wouldn't expect anything less than from Kris because that's what he does best.

He shook his head, but I stared at him and waited for an answer. “It's just that, I keep trying to figure you out. And you keep surprising me.”

I rubbed my forehead. Figure me out? That's what he was trying to do? It made me feel like I was no better than a dangling string, toying and distracting a kitten. What a jerk. I didn't understand how I could be so repulsed by someone I was also incredibly attracted to. Absolutely nothing was making sense anymore. I might as well have been in a boat, because I was lost at sea. “Well, I suppose I could say the same thing about you, Kris. I don't understand you either.”

That made him smile, and it only got on my nerves even more. He changed the subject. “So, what were you going to go to school for?”

I don't know why I answered. “Physics.”

“Sounds hard.”

“Not if you're interested in it,” I explained, allowing myself to get caught up in the way it used to make me feel. “There's nothing more fascinating than figuring out how the natural world around you works. It's like uncovering a mystery when you can use a formula to predict how something will happen or why.” The good memories flooded back: launching makeshifts rockets from the football field, building rubberband-propelled cars and racing them down the hallways, and all those fun problems and questions about how fast and how far Superman would have to fly in order to save Lois Lane. Mr. Bryant was the best teacher, and he always made his class fun.

“Excuse me for being an idiot then,” Kris said, interrupting my memories, “but then why didn’t you go? You say that you want to live in the moment and have fun. But you obviously liked it, so why change your mind?”

I was sick of Kris sticking his nose where it didn’t belong. “I told you. Everything changed. That’s all you need to know, so stop asking fucking questions, okay?”

He shrugged, looking at me with those intense and captivating brown eyes. “I told you, you don’t have to talk about anything you don’t want to.”

“Good,” I spat. “Because I don’t want to.”

“Okay,” he replied in a reassuring manner, staying calm.

“I mean, you can’t just ask people questions like that,” I continued, not looking at him. He made me feel like I was overreacting, even though I didn’t think I was. “And you don’t know me. You can’t talk to strangers that way.”

“It was just a question, Joanna.”

“It’s Jo, okay? Not Joanna. No one’s called me that in a long time,” I snapped. Kris was pushing my buttons—either all the wrong ones or all the right ones, because it was just enough to get me to talk. “You wanna know? Will it shut you up?” I didn’t give him time to answer me. “Because not only did I lose a brother, but it tore apart my family. My dad started drinking, and he spends most of his time out at his friend’s bar, so it’s like I lost my father, too. And then my mom couldn’t take it anymore, so she just picked up and left.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Yeah, me too,” I hollered. “I know she watched as her son died. But she just forgot that she still had a daughter who needed her, too.”

“It’s okay to get angry.”

“You don’t need to tell me what’s okay. And I’m not angry. I’m pissed as fuck! I know she misses him. I miss him, too. God, I miss him so much,” I repeated as sadness and grief replaced the anger. I couldn’t stop myself from talking about the things that had haunted me for so long. “James used to say that we had the world at our feet. That we could do anything we wanted. He was going to play in the NHL some day, and I... well, it doesn’t matter now. James never got that chance to show the world what he was capable of. He was going to be so great. It just goes to show you that you can’t assume that things are going to work out perfectly. We just aren’t able to have it all.” I barely managed to eke out those last words before the sensation of my eyes burning took over. I pressed my palms over my eyes and leaned forward, hoping to ease the suffocating ache and pressure in my chest.

I felt as Kris put his hand on my back and began to rub large circles over my spine. His voice was soothing, even though I couldn’t tell what he was saying. It didn’t matter, though; it was strangely comforting. This was just another instance of what a conundrum Kris was—he got under my skin and wreaked all this emotional havoc on me, yet he was a calming presence, too.

“Are you happy now?” I asked as I leaned back, furiously wiping at my face to erase the tracks of tears. “You did it. You made me cry. I hope you feel good for making a poor girl cry.”

“I don’t want you to cry, Jo,” he whispered, his hand resting on the small of my back. “I never wanted to make you cry.”

“Then why did you push me to tell you those things? You know my whole fucking life story now—didn’t you think it would upset me? Didn’t you think that there were reasons why I said I didn’t want to talk about it?”

“Jo, I know how much it hurts to lose someone,” he said, relying on his fallback explanation. I was starting to get sick of hearing that, but he continued. “It’s always going to hurt. The pain never goes away. It just gets... more manageable. As long as you manage it.”

“I was managing just fine until you showed up. You know, I’ve been working at the arena for over a year now, and up until this point, you left me alone. Why now, Kris? Huh?” I asked, pressing for answers. My heart was still racing, and my hands were shaking from being so worked up.

“I don’t know. I never noticed you before. And if I remember correctly,” he added with a smile, “you’re the one who invited us over to party with you. So I’d say it was the other way around.”

“I wasn’t even supposed to work that day,” I moaned, recalling the phone call I got that woke me up. “That’s not even in my job description. I didn’t want to go in, but I decided to. Who would have known that one decision would lead to all this,” I concluded, motioning around me. If I had told Bob to fuck off that day and had gotten fired, I never would have met Kris and the guys in the locker room. If I hadn’t met them, I wouldn’t have invited them to my home, and then Kris and I wouldn’t have started this weird relationship. Were we friends? I wasn’t sure what to call it. All I remembered was that I thought he was hot, and partying with him sounded like fun at the time. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

“Isn’t it funny how things work out sometimes? You never know what’s going to happen. There’s no way of telling what effect your decisions could have, on you or on others.”

“Ain’t that the truth,” I sighed, thinking about the veracity of his words. It was kind of funny; we didn’t seem so different after all, but I wondered if we could ever see eye-to-eye.


  1. I gotta say that the title of this chapter is perfect - what a conundrum! Fabulous writing, as always, and I like that she just let loose on him!

  2. Wonderful writing. I love these two. :)

    Great game tonight,eh?

  3. you are an awesome writer seriously

    this is one of my favorite stories. so different from the rest :D

  4. Ok god! I don't have long to write but...

    I love the whole description of sanity; grains of sand that we can't hold on to.

    And Kris is such a sweetie... being there for her when she needs him; all soothing and what-not. Not gonna lie though, I thought she was gonna get on him... haha I'm sick I know! She's pouring her heart out and having a break-down, while I think about the crazy animalistic sex they could have /sigh...

    ALSO, I wonder why her dad was home? A real reason or just one of those random things that happens... I hope nothing else went wrong... = /
    MORE MORE MORE MORE MORE!!!!!!!!!!! Please =D

  5. Soooo, it seems like they might finally be connecting? Maybe? A little bit? I really hope so because I already love them together even if they're not quite together yet.

    And Kris. I love you. You comforting, sexy, hockey player, you! He's such a sweetheart to Jo and I really hope that she can realize that!