Thursday, December 10, 2009

5.) Moral Obligation

Soundtrack Song - The Fray, How to Save a Life

"What the hell happened?" Goose asked, when we were finally in the car and pulling away.

"She freaked out on me. I was trying to talk to her, and she freaked," I explained, remembering how she went from laughing to angry in seconds flat. "She was stoned, so she wasn't exactly thinking clearly."

"People don't just 'freak out' for no reason. Especially when they're high... they're supposed to be happy. So what did you say?" TK asked.

I didn't answer him. Instead I gripped the wheel tighter and stared through the windshield. I didn't say anything wrong. Maybe Jo didn't want to hear it, but that didn't mean that I shouldn't've said it. Sometimes, you have to take the advice of someone who's been there, done that. When you see something negatively affect someone else, sometimes you have to put yourself in their shoes and learn that lesson for them. It's why I decided not to get that bike. Or drink. And it's why Jo shouldn't be drinking, either.

"That black dude looked like he was gonna kick your ass!" Staal laughed. "He's either her boyfriend or her bodyguard. Either way, you don't want to mess with that. Don't piss him off."

"I don't know who he is, and I didn't do anything to piss him off! Can we just forget about it?" I asked, curling my fingers around the steering wheel and clenching my jaw. Since when was it a bad idea to offer help to those who needed it? Since when did a helping hand have to be met with stubborn frustration and resentment?

"It would be easier to forget if we had something to do or somewhere to go," Borky sighed. "Where to, boys?"

"I don't feel like going anywhere else," I sighed. "Can't we just call it a night?"

The other guys groaned with discontent, but I drove them home anyway. Not only had I not been crazy about going out in the first place, but the mood was ruined now. Nothing like getting screamed at without cause to put a damper on your day.

I dropped the guys off and then headed back to my apartment. I jumped in the shower to get rid of the smoke smell that had followed me home. Letting the water cascade over me, I pushed my hair out of my eyes and reflected on what happened.

It wasn't my intention to show up in order to chastise and ridicule the hostess of the party. In fact, that wasn't even what I had been doing, even though that's how she obviously took it. I was an impartial third party making an observation on a sensitive aspect of her life. We were strangers, but we shared something in common: losing someone close to us at a young age, and that automatically connected us. Luc might as well have been my brother. And I could tell from that picture that Jo had been close to hers. The way they were standing together—he crushing her against his side with his arm around her shoulders and she glancing up at him with a delighted expression on her face. She had been smiling so brightly that she practically glowed.

They say a picture's worth a thousand words. Well, that one picture conveyed to me that the Jo in front of me was not the same Jo in the photo. That girl had been happy, and now... well, she wasn't. It was clearly evident in the way she looked and how she carried herself. How she lived. The glow was gone, faded so dimly that she was extinguishing and stifling her own light. She was hurting. I could recognize that in her; I'd been there. Sometimes I still am. I know exactly what that's like, so shouldn't I have offered some words of wisdom? Help her in the way I know she needs to be helped?

I have a moral obligation to help those I can. No, she's not a charity case; she's a human being who could use a guiding light. I know it's not easy for her to hear someone critique her life, but I just wanted to help point her in the right direction. If I have the power to help someone, shouldn't I? It didn't matter that I didn't know her; I knew what she was going through.

I squeezed shampoo into my hands, rubbed them together, and then ran my hand through my hair. Was it wrong of me to selflessly offer my help? I wanted to help; no, I needed to. When I was in her shoes, I would have loved to have someone guide me. Grief is indefinite, and no two people go through the process similarly. And it changes you in ways you'll never know, until you go through it. Of course Jo didn't want to hear what I had to say, but the ones that need to hear it are the ones that never want to listen.

It's strictly for her benefit. After all, it's not like I would get anything out of it. Of course, besides the general reward that I get from performing good deeds. Like that internal warm feeling that courses through my body after I help someone, like during the Project Bundle-Up shopping days. But no, this was simply a magnanimous gesture to a lost soul from someone who knew what it was like to be in that position. I wanted to help her in the way I couldn't have helped Luc.

I was more afraid of letting the situation slide without any intervention on my part. Wasn't there a good Samaritan law that demanded passersby to pitch in when help was needed? Jo was engaged in at-risk behavior and putting herself in immediate danger. It would weigh on my conscience if I hadn't said something. If something had happened to her, and I could have prevented it.... I couldn't go through that.

But maybe you can't help everyone. I thought it was silly of me to want to give up on her already, but maybe it was silly that I even bothered at all. She was absolutely right: I didn't know her. I didn't know the circumstances. Not that it made a difference, in my opinion. How she got herself into this position didn't matter. It's not about the how or the why; it happened, and that's all that counts at this point.

As I rinsed the soap off my body, I told myself that the next time I saw her, I'd go up to her and talk to her again. Not to tell her that she was wrong or that she needed to point her life in a new direction. And not to apologize and tell her that I was wrong, either. But to let her know that if she ever wanted to talk, I'd be there for her. Sometimes, having a person to talk to makes a world of difference. Not someone to try and solve your problems for you, but to let you talk it out and figure out the solution yourself. And it didn't appear that she had anyone to whom she could relate. With her brother gone, her mother out of the picture and her father hardly ever home, who did she have to turn to? No one. What did she have to turn to? Drugs.

Once I was satisfactorily clean, I turned off the water and grabbed a towel. That was simultaneously the least I could do and the most I could do until she came around to accepting an outstretched helping hand.

I'm not a saint, by any means. I'm not always capable of making cold, calculated, emotionless decisions; nor am I saying that people should only make decisions that way. Emotions are valid aspects of our minds, but we can't always listen to our hearts and discount our brains. Sometimes, you have to do what you know is right in your head, even if your heart can't make sense of it.

Toweled off and dry, I slipped into sweats and a shirt before I meandered into my meager kitchen and looked for something to eat. I hoped that I didn't somehow get the munchies by inadvertently inhaling any smoke. We shouldn't have gone at all to a house where we had no idea what was going on inside. What if someone had called the cops? I shuddered to think of the trouble we could have gotten into. None of us needed that. I felt the need to eat something healthy to counteract anything negative I may have brought into my body, so I grabbed an apple.

Then I sunk onto the couch, turned the TV on and muted it, and then dialed a familiar number. She answered on the second ring. "Kris!"

"Hey, Charlene," I said, smiling at the happy sound in her voice. "How are you?"

I couldn't really hear her words over the noise in the background. "Doing really good, actually."

"I'm glad to hear that," I replied. "I know we haven't talked in a little while."

"You've been busy. Congratulations on the start to the season. How's the finger? Did you get your rabies shot?" she laughed. It sounded really to hear her laugh.

"Yeah. Uh, you saw that game?"

"Oh, no, I didn't see it. But I heard about it. Kris, I will always follow your success."

It made me happy and sad at the same time. Poor Charlene. "Have you talked to Luc's mom recently?"

She paused. "Not in a while. Listen, Kris, I'm sorry I can't stay on for longer, but I have to go—"

"Oh, yeah, no problem. I probably caught you at a bad time. Seeing as though it is a Friday night. I didn't think to check the clock."

"It's fine. Why aren't you out doing something? I bet you're just sitting in your lonely apartment," she commented, laughter in her voice but somehow also using a serious tone.

"I was already out tonight. Went to a party," I said, glad to have a real story to tell her instead of having to make up an excuse on the spot. "I just didn't want to be out real late."

"Okay," she replied. "Don't forget that it's okay to have fun."

"Hey, I have fun. I'll let you go. Have a good time, whatever it is you're doing. Take care of yourself."

"You, too. Bye now." She hung up and left me alone on the line, so I unmuted the television and flipped through the channels, hoping to find something worth my attention.


  1. "I wanted to help her in the way I couldn't have helped Luc."

    I feel like Kris unconsciously blames himself and carries the weight of the world on his shoulders (in the story, of course).

    "Not someone to try and solve your problems for you, but to let you talk it out and figure out the solution yourself."

    I just liked that part because of the truth to it. You can't always count on somebody to fix things for you--you have to learn to fix them yourself.

    Oh my. The whole Charlene part upset me so much. I remember reading about her whenever Luc’s accident happened last year, and how she witnessed the accident and needed physical care and oxygen and everything. It's one thing to lose somebody, but it's a completely different thing to have to witness it. That poor girl must have nightmares...

    "Okay," she replied. "Don't forget that it's okay to have fun."

    I hope Kris, in trying to improve everyone else's life and be careful not to make the same mistakes the people around him did, doesn't end up wasting so much of his own life and regretting it one day.

  2. As we go...

    "The glow was gone, faded so dimly that she was extinguishing and stifling her own light."
    ^^ WOW! What a powerful sentence... that's some amazing writing right there.
    That's actually one of the saddest things I've read, it makes me feel so bad for Jo... and even sadder for Kris - the fact that he can look at someone and tell that that's what happened to them =(

    "I wanted to help her in the way I couldn't have helped Luc."
    ^^ I can't imagine what it's like to lose a friend that close, especially when you carry the blame for it when it isn't your fault.

    "but the ones that need to hear it are the ones that never want to listen."
    ^^ Ugh! It's soooo true! I'm not a HUGE fan of Kris for butting his nose into Jo's life... I know how annoying it can be when people you don't know try and tell you what you should be doing. At the same time, I understand that he's doing what he thinks is right, and you can't really fault him for that. I just hope that he doesn't push her too much lol.

    "I hoped that I didn't somehow get the munchies by inadvertently inhaling any smoke."
    ^^ BAHAHAHAHAAHHAAHA anal much? Oh Kris... you sad little man... go live a little. Please!

    I loved it!! Not that I expected anything different, but seriously this story is fantastic.
    There's so much depth to it... I love being able to get such a good look at Jo and Kris.
    I feel like in 5 posts I know more about them then a lot of other characters I've read about...

    Just fantastic! ALSO, when I saw Charlene's name I almost cried. I was wondering if she was going to be in this story... I hope that she can help Kris move on, I hate to think of him being alone all the time =(

    Can't wait for more!

  3. "I hoped that I didn't somehow get the munchies by inadvertently inhaling any smoke."
    ^^ooohhhhhh I'm STILL laughing.

    I seriously love this. Already I feel like I know these two so well. They're the same person, just dealing and living life completely differently. It's very interesting, and I'm completely hooked!!

    Can't wait for more. =D

  4. That was mean Jay! Most of your chapter involved Kris in the shower..naked. Then toweling off.

    Just cruel.

    Loved the update though :) I'm loving where this story is going so far and I can't wait to see where you take it!

  5. Poor Kris! My heart completely breaks for him. That whole part with Charlene was really sad, but you wrote it so well, Jay, that I'm looking forward to seeing how they'll help eachother cope.

    As always, lovely work. (:

  6. Wow, excellent chapter...I feel his pain!

    Also, interesting dynamic between Charlene and Kris, she may be the one that tells him to move on...