Tuesday, December 15, 2009

8.) Saint Versus Sinner

Soundtrack Song - Billy Talent, This Suffering

It nagged at me like a jigsaw puzzle that was missing its final piece. It was one thing to ponder Kris's intentions as I finished my shift at the Mellon, when I had nothing else to think about; after all, picking up after a bunch of slobs isn't exactly rocket science. But when I was finished for the night and stripped out of my uniform, I reached into the pockets of my coveralls. That crumbled piece of paper was there to remind me of his so-called magnanimous gesture.

A part of me wanted to throw it away with all the other garbage I had cleaned up that night, but for some odd reason, I didn't do that. Instead, I shoved it into the pocket of my jeans and took it home with me. I thought about it still as I drove back to my house. That small piece of paper with printed ink felt like a boulder in my pocket. It's like I needed to know, even if I didn't care. He was like a fucking Jehovah's Witness, and he was going to keep knocking on my door until I answered it.

It's not like no one ever told me I should have been doing more with myself or with my life before. I’ve heard it often enough that you'd think I'd start listening to them just to shut them up. But those were all people who had known me before James died. They told me that I was giving up; but really, I was just changing my priorities. It didn't make sense to go to college. Why waste four-plus years locked away in a library? First of all, these were supposed to be the best years of my life, so I want to live them up. And second, who needs a piece of paper tacked on the wall to feel smart? Especially if you don't know where you'll be in four years. What if I went off to university, only to never get to use that degree I would have earned? No point in it.

But to hear it from a stranger, someone I didn't know and someone who didn't know me.... It bothered me. I was irritated by his unwelcome attempts to pull me up from the depths of my personal hell. Because it wasn't hell to me; sure, it wasn't paradise, but it's what I chose for myself, and for good reason. I shouldn't have to explain that to him—especially if he had the misfortune to lose a loved one. If he decided to lock himself away in a padded room and try to live risk-free, then that's his prerogative. Life is a risk, and an unavoidable one at that.

Besides, Kris plays hockey. A sport in which a bunch of burly guys strap sharp metal blades to their feet and skate around at high speeds with sticks in their hands, slapping at a small black disk of frozen rubber. If that's not dangerous, then I don't know what is. What a hypocrite.

When I got home, I removed the paper from my pocket and placed it under a magnet on the fridge. I wasn’t sure what to do with it yet. I didn’t want to call and subject myself to his preaching, yet… my interest was piqued. It nagged at me that I didn’t know why he was so damn interested in helping me or even thinking that I needed his help. But it would be masochist to call, because I would only be opening myself up to his ridicule.

I opened the refrigerator door and then promptly shut it. There was still all that beer in there; merely thinking about beer disgusted me, so looking at those full bottles repulsed me and left me feeling revolted. My stomach somersaulted at the idea of drinking. No alcohol for me tonight. Nope, tonight would have to be spent sober.

I pulled out my cell and called Tubby. I really didn’t want to be alone. As it rung, my eye caught sight of the number under the magnet. Why would I call Kris if I had Tubby? He picked up after a few rings. “Hello?”

“Hey. What are you doing?”

“Sleeping,” he answered. “Why? What’s up?”

“Oh, uh, nothing,” I replied. It was three a.m. on a Saturday night—or rather, Sunday morning. I didn’t think he’d be wasting it sleeping. “I just wanted to see if you wanted to hang out, but, um, I guess we can do it some other time....” My voice faded out, and I felt disappointed and upset.

“Gimme ten. I’ll be right over.”

I sighed with relief, so happy to hear that. “Thanks, Tub. I mean it.”

“I know,” he said before he hung up. I set my phone down on the countertop and headed up to get ready for bed. I first slipped out of my clothes and tossed on a baggy tee shirt to sleep in, and then I washed my face and brushed my teeth. Tubby, having let himself in as was his usual routine, walked in as I was lying down in bed and pulling up the covers. Instead of giving me a proper greeting, he blurted out, “What the fuck did you do to your hair?”

“Dyed it,” I responded, running a hand through it. “Don’t you like it?”

He was dressed in a sweatpants and a tank top, having crawled right out of his bed in order to cross town and get into mine. “You did a good job I guess, but, Jo, I just don’t get it.”

I rolled my eyes as he lay down beside me. “Whatever. I just got sick of looking at myself.” My eyes got wide. “I mean looking at my hair—”

“Freudian slip if I ever heard one,” he sighed. “Girl, you know I love you. Which is why I have to say this: changing the external doesn’t fix the internal.”

“Tubby, really, I don’t need this from you right now,” I groaned, rolling onto my side so I didn’t have to look at him. “I expect that psycho-babble from other people, but not from you.”

“Don’t get mad, Jo,” he added.

“I’m not mad.”

“Yes, you are. I’m sorry. You know I’m not trying to change you or fix you—”

“Good. Because I don’t need fixed. It makes me sound like I’m broken. I’m not broken.” I felt like an elephant sat on my chest. My heart couldn’t beat and my lungs couldn’t breathe. “Kris was bad enough, a fucking stranger, and now you, too? Et tu, Tubby?”

“Who's Kris?”

I groaned. “That guy at the party yesterday. I saw him at work today—”

“What did he do?” I could feel the tension in the room pick up. “I told you, I'll kick his ass—”

“Stop being all macho.” I tried to think of a way to explain that wouldn't sound ridiculous; however, the nature of the situation prevented that. “He, uh, gave me his phone number.”

Tubby started laughing. “I thought you liked him? What's the problem?”

“He's some kinda saint. A goody two-shoes or something.”

“You used to be a goody two-shoes, too. Never out past ten on a school night. Remember that?”

“I was such a stick in the mud,” I laughed, rolling back to face him.

“No, not a stick in the mud. You were always fun, Jo. Full of personality. Things were just different back then. Maybe you should call him. He could be good for you.”

“You don't know what's good for me,” I mumbled, not wanting to listen. Why couldn't everyone just let me live in peace?

“Yeah, Jo, actually I do. I know James would want you to be happy.”

“James would want to not be dead. I'm trying to have fun with my life.”

“Having fun and being happy aren't mutually exclusive. Partying to have fun is one thing, but when you do it to mask—”

“Sweet Jesus. You and Kris should write a fucking book together.”

“What?”

“Seriously. Twice in two days I hear it from two people. That's why he gave me his number. To call him to talk about my feelings or whatever I'm sure. He thinks because someone in his life died, too, that he can point me toward the light. Who fucking tells a stranger that? Fuck that shit.”

“You really do need to call him. I've tried to be there for you, Jo. But... obviously it's not enough. You sure as hell don't listen to me, no matter what I say or how I say it. And maybe he can help you in a way that I can't.”

I ignored what he said and how he said it. “Don't you think it's weird that he doesn't know me, yet he wants to be my saving grace?”

“I don't care why. So much as he can make good on his offer. Listen, we can talk about it in the morning. Right now I'm exhausted, though, and I'd like to get back to sleep. Come here.”

Tubby opened his arms, and I curled up against him. I just let him hold me as he practically instantly fell asleep. I hated being alone with my thoughts. Tubby was supposed to get my mind off everything Kris had said, but he instead fed fuel to the fire. I wanted that nagging to go away, but it lingered.

“Someone to talk to.... Experience.... Quick to judge.... You can call anytime.... The option’s yours....”

I kept likening him to a saint, and myself as the sinner. Although, I hated that comparison; despite what others may think, there's nothing wrong with the way I live. I do it for fun, and it never gets out of hand. No one ever has to call an ambulance for me so I can get my stomach pumped. I never smoke anything harder than weed. I only want to have a good time. Sure, sometimes I get down. Who doesn't? At least I have a legitimate reason. Not like the stupid fuckers who have to pop a Prozac for no goddamned reason. I've experienced true sadness and grief, and it's made me see the importance of living life like there's no tomorrow. I don't have time to deal with sadness.

Kris and I are two people on opposite ends of the spectrum. What could we possibly have to talk about, except to reminisce about our dead loved ones? I still love James, and I miss him like crazy even after all this time, but why would I want to talk about him to a stranger? Kris didn’t know him, so he wouldn’t understand. And I didn’t really feel like making him understand, either.

But I felt bad for Tubby, most of all. The way he sounded so sad when he was talking to me. I didn’t think that he felt that way. I thought we were having fun together! Tubby didn’t party like me, but we had good times when we hung out together, whether drinking and/or smoking was involved or not. Suddenly, I felt like I didn’t know him. And it hurt.

I didn’t sleep much for the rest of the night, because I felt horribly about it. Tubby was my best friend, and I never wanted to be the one responsible for his distress. I never want to hurt anyone. But, here I was, doing just that.

Tubby woke up early; I could feel it as he shifted beside me. “You up? You sleep at all?”

“Not really. I just kept thinking.”

“I thought I smelled smoke,” he joked. But I didn’t laugh. “Are you still upset about last night?”

“I never realized you felt that way.”

“Jo, you know I don’t mean anything bad by it. You know I just want you to be happy. But this guy, whoever he is, he obviously said something to you that stuck with you, and it’s festering. So, yeah, I think you should call him, at least to hear what he has to say. But that’s only my opinion. The choice is yours to do whatever.”

I closed my eyes and leaned my forehead against his chest again. Why was everyone telling me that this was up to me? So many things in life happen to you, regardless of whether you want them to happen or not. So why was I all of a sudden getting a say in the matter?

“Okay, Tubs. I’ll call.”

7 comments:

  1. As I go...

    "He was like a fucking Jehovah's Witness, and he was going to keep knocking on my door until I answered it."
    ^^ Bahahahaha ooh it's true, poor kris... you persistent little bugger...

    Your description of hockey...
    ^^ I didn't want to copy/paste the whole thing... but WOW! I loved it... hilarious!

    "James would want to not be dead"
    ^^ Ok... that totally knocked the wind out of me. I love Jo to death, but I hate how depressed she is. We obviously haven't heard a lot about her brother, but if he loved her half as much as she loves him... he'd want her to move on.

    "So many things in life happen to you, regardless of whether you want them to happen or not. So why was I all of a sudden getting a say in the matter?"
    ^^ Another one of the amazing things you say that blows my mind... I loved it! It's so sad and so true at the same time.

    Ok, so once again, I'm totally in love with Tubby. How he just drops anything for Jo... regardless of what it is. I also think that he's secretly in love with her (perhaps I'm just crazy), but I totally dig him for still wanting her to talk to Kris.
    He's way more concerned about her well being than his own personal life.

    I can't wait for the next one! I'm glad she's going to call Kris... god knows he's probably just sitting at home... alone. =(

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  2. Tubby!<3 I love how he's trying to do what's best for Jo without being the bad guy. And he's completely right! I'm so glad that he's on board with Kris wanting to help Jo out. I always knew Tubby would be smart. (:

    And! So glad Jo's gonna call Kris. I can't wait to see what happens there.

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  3. I fall for this story even more everytime I read and update

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  4. I'm starting to like this Toby fellow. He seems to be on the same page as Kris, really.

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  5. Tubby is such a good, good guy! I love how he offers to kick butt, and wants what's best for Jo. I am also glad that she is going to call Kris. Could be very interesting, eh?

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  6. I got home from work saw the the Penguins beat the Flyers 6-1 and you had posted this great update, it's a very good night!

    Please update soon, I can't wait to hear the conversation!

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  7. Your description of hockey made me realize that it really is a dangerous sport! I feel so bad for Jo, internally debating whether or not she should call Kris or not. And it especially sucks that she thinks that she's making things worse for Tubby, that's the worst feeling in the world when you think you're messing up a best friend's life. Another amazing update, can't wait for another one!

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