Central Deck

I felt the roughness of the concrete beneath me as I shifted on my perch. The world below me seemed so far away and I guess it was. Eight stories to be exact. I worked to control my breathing, in and out, in and out, over and over again that lesson I never had to be taught. On the next breath, I take a hit, feel it cloud my mind, just a little bit. I’m not totally gone, but I will be. Nothing matters anymore. Especially not being safe.

My hand hits the wall harder than I expected it to. I feel my cheeks move without my consent, grimacing as pain radiates up my arm and across my body. I take a depth breath, try to absorb the pain, try to make it drown out the rest of my life but it doesn’t really work. It never does.

I set down my blunt with more care than I thought possible at the moment and in the same motion pick up my bottle of tequila and bring it to my lips. Sputtering, I put the bottle back down, forcing the burning liquid down my throat at the same time. I’m starting to feel it now. The little I can see of the world, the few shining streetlights and the taillights of passing cars, begin to sway. Or maybe that’s just me. I’m never quite sure of what is happening when I get like this. I guess that’s part of the problem.

The blunt is against my lips again and I’m not sure how it got there but I take another hit anyway. Holding the smoke in my lungs, I look at the stars twinkling above me. My vision is clouded by the smoke as it escapes from within me, a sign of my inability to do anything right. A cough crawls up my throat and I struggle to keep it silent, like the rest of my endeavor. But I guess that’s another thing I’m bad at, keeping quite when I should. Or maybe keeping quite when I shouldn’t. I guess I’ll never really know.

It was all her fault anyway. Hope. Her name was such a contradiction to what she did to my life. But I couldn’t really blame this whole shit storm on her. But if she hadn’t been such a fucking idiot I wouldn’t be here right now. That’s not really fair to say, because it isn’t her fault I’m such a mess. I’d been waiting for this to happen for a while, this inevitable dissolution of what once was something great.

I’d only really gone to keep an eye on her, make sure she stayed safe. I didn’t want her there alone with both of them, knowing what happened the last time she got drunk. So I went even though all I really wanted to do was be at home, tucked up in bed with Netflix and a cup of tea.

It started out fairly tame, but it always seems that way until the alcohol hits. I didn’t drink much. A shot of vodka here, a sip of beer there. I wasn’t comfortable with these people, and besides, what’s so great about being drunk anyway?

“The freedom it gives,” she always said, but I never really believed her on that. We all work too hard to control every aspect of our lives. Why give it up because someone shoves a drink in your face?

I guess she liked to let go of her control. I guess that’s what she was doing when she went in his bedroom with him. I guess she let go of our friendship too in that moment, me laying on the floor in the living room, pretending to be asleep, her in his bedroom fucking him even though she didn’t give a damn about him. She just wanted to be “cool”, to escape her homeschooler image. But she lost herself in that escape. And she lost me too.

I gave up on us in that moment. I left without a word, grabbed my things and ran away. I barely made it to the car before breaking down, sobs ripped from my chest as I tried not to think about what they were doing in there. I wasn’t really that hurt or surprised. Mostly it was that little green demon that reared up every time she told me about her newest boy toy, the little demon that made me see red. The demon that destroyed too many of my friendships combined with my inability to fight against it.

The breeze hits my body, goosebumps race across my arms. It changes the direction of the smoke too, sending it off over the edge of the parking deck. I watch it as it floats away, swaying in time with the earth, trying not to lean too far forward for fear of falling. My mind drifted just like the smoke in front of my face as the memories tried to swallow me.

 

“Sorry I couldn’t meet today like we planned. My parents needed me at home.”

Her voice sounds like heaven to my ears while my heart is being shredded by all the thoughts going through my head. We hadn’t spoken in three days, hadn’t exchanged a single word since I ran away. All I’d gotten since then was a text berating me for leaving because it scared the shit out of her. Like she had any right to be mad at me for that night.

“It’s okay. I understand.” Steady. The words sounded steady. Unlike the completely erratic beating of my heart, threatening to burst through my chest.

The moment dragged on, silence on both sides of the phone. I started panicking, the silence causing my overwrought heart to beat even faster. So I rambled.

I told her things I’d never said to her before. My porn addiction. How her nudes had really bothered me. My jealousy of her ability to get anyone to talk to her. How I really wanted to fall asleep in someone’s arms last night. On and on I went, but silence was all I heard. Another moment passed before her voice came through the speaker.

“Is that all?”

The voice was calm, too calm, after everything I just said. “I wonder if she actually heard a word of that?” managed to cross my mind before she spoke again.

“Cause I feel like there’s more?” The questioning tone in her voice nudged at me, wanting me to respond with a negative, wanting me to tell her that this is all my fucked up mind could find wrong with our friendship.

The words made their way past my lips, almost against my will, “I think…. I’m kinda in love with you.”

The silence filled the empty space of my car while the world drifted in and out of focus. My breath was harsh against my own ears, once I started breathing again.

“I’m sorry……. But I don’t see you that way.”

That hole in my chest, the one that grew every time I lost a friend, threatened to consume me even as I knew what she would say next. The words left her lips and I mouthed them to myself, my body shaking like a leaf in a wind storm.

“We can still be friends, right?”

I wanted to say yes, wanted to believe that I could bury these feelings, wanted nothing more than to go back to being her best friend but my mouth formed words of denial, my body betraying my heart once again, “I don’t think I can be just your friend right now.” I waited a moment for her response, praying she would beg me to stay, praying she would care enough about me to see past my mask.

A heavy sigh. A moment of silence. “Okay. If that’s how you feel, I’ll respect it.”

Numbness overtaking my body, I didn’t hear my own response to her goodbye. My head repeated one phrase, over and over, as I got out of my car and made my way to the razor blade I had promised not to use anymore.

“Why’d you give up on me so easily?”

 

With fingers shaking, lost in my haze of memories, my hand didn’t connect with the tequila like I wanted it to. The crash as it hit the ground was deafening and yet barely a whisper in the night air. I’m scared to look, scared to see the shattered remains of the thing that was right next to me, high up on my perch. I try, try to force my body to look over the edge, try not to think about following the bottle to the ground. I bring the blunt to my lips, hoping it will calm me down. Or maybe it will push me over the edge. I’m not quite sure what I need right now. As the smoke leaves my lungs, memories cloud my mind, drifting over my carefully constructed walls.

It had only been a couple of days since the phone call and I was waiting once again. It seems like I spend 1all my time waiting. Waiting for it to stop hurting. Waiting for it to all get better. Or, in this moment, waiting for Anna to get off of work. My eyes, unfocused and fuzzy, scan the parking lot methodically, waiting for a glimpse of Anna’s teal hair. I glance at the clock, blinking, and look back up. And there is a flash of hair. A color I would never forget.

It wasn’t the teal of Anna’s hair. No. This was her hair. Hope.

My chest throbbed as she left the store. My heartbeat pounded in my ears, like the bass at a rock concert while my blood flowed through my veins, burning me alive but freezing at the same time. I didn’t feel my body and yet every nerve ending screamed at me for those hideously long moments, acutely aware of my pain.

My focus was so absolute I almost didn’t see him. But he was there. His arm around her waist, his head close to hers, whispering into her ear. Sharp pain shot across my body as the pieces clicked into place.

“Sorry I couldn’t meet today like we planned. My parents needed me at home”

Lies. Bold-faced lies. But why? Was she trying to avoid me? Trying to avoid our conversation? The inevitable heartbreak that it was destined to be? Or did she just want to see him? They always picked someone over me….

The car door opening jolted me out of my stupor. Anna slide into my passenger seat, sliding her back pack into the floor as she did so.

“Hey girl. Thanks for coming to get me.” A quick glance at my face. “Everything okay?”
A moment of silence dragged on, with only my ragged breathing filling the car. “Hope was here. She just left with him. She said she couldn’t meet today because her family needed her at home. So why was she with him?” My voice edged on hysteria but I couldn’t stop. “What did I do wrong? What is so fucking wrong with me?” The words that I had thought for so long filled the car, drowning me, drowning both of us.

“You didn’t do anything wrong, babe. She’s just a bitch.” Anna took a hit off her vape and the vapor filled my car for a moment, hiding me from her gaze.

Her words were soothing but they did nothing for the pain in my heart. I barely felt her hand on my shoulder, offering comfort that I didn’t want.

“I got some new shit yesterday. Let’s go try it out, see if it gets your mind off of her.” Anna’s voice filled my car again, calm and relaxed like we would soon feel.

My head was nodding before the words actually made sense in my brain. Forgetting was all I needed right now.

 

On top of Central Deck, a young man opened the door to the eighth floor with shaking hands, struggling to stay upright. He moved with unsure footsteps across the parking deck, trying to reach the far back corner where the lights never managed to reach.

“Tobacco-free campus,” he muttered under his breath. “What a fucking stupid idea. People need to smoke. It’s just a fact of life.” With his words as a reminder, he stopped a moment to light his pipe. But then he smelled it, even before lighting his own. It wafted toward him, enticing him into moving closer to the shadows created by the lights. As his eyes adjusted to the shadows, a figure started to take shape. It was sitting on the edge of the parking garage wall and he saw a flash of red, the glowing end of a lighted blunt, a sight he knew all too well.

He continued moving forward, hoping the person would let him smoke with them, because smoking is always better with company. Maybe they would even share, cause his stash was running low and his bitch-ass dealer wasn’t responding to his texts. He continued moving forward, already making plans about smoking until he couldn’t move.

I just want to feel something. Alive. Or maybe just less alone. I want my life to be like the movies. I want to ride of into the sunset, happily ever after. But I’d only felt a mutation of happiness for the past couple of years. It was always based on who I called my best friend. Too many people to count in the past couple of years, with Hope now at the top of the list. Even the thought of her name sends pain across my chest and her face across my eyes. My “best friends” never stuck around for long, no matter how many times they told me forever. Bullshit. But I still want them back, want to feel the joy that those friendship bring. But all I feel now is fear.

And God can I feel it. It’s breaking through the weed, through the tequila, through the thoughts of what I want to do, and it’s trying to control me, trying to make me do its bidding. It wants me to get down, to go home, to be safe. It tries to make me change my mind. But my mind is made up. I’m done now. So fucking done. And this time I won’t fuck it up.

 

He must of smoked more than he thought because in the next moment he tripped over the air in front of him. And then he was falling. He flung his arms in front of him hoping to break his fall. He almost didn’t feel them connect with the shoulder-blade of the person he had been moving towards as the ground rushed towards his face

.

Shuffling. I hear it behind me, startling me out of my thoughts. As I turn to look and see what has crept up behind me, a hand hits me in the shoulder, shoving me forward. My body moves without my say-so forced as it is by the body that just hit it.

Air. All around me, rushing past me on my way down.

Crash. Solid ground, unmoving as I impact against it.

Pain. Blinding, agonizing pain. Physical, for the first time all night.

The moment stretches on, through eternity.

Blessed darkness creeping across my eyes. Watching the stars twinkling far above me as the shadows overtake my sight.

 

It was gone. It had been there just a moment before sitting on the edge of the wall and it was gone. He moved closer to the edge, knuckles white against the wall. His first glance reveled nothing. Seconds stretch on for an eternity, and finally his eyesight adjusts to the damning darkness down below. A streetlight reflecting off a broken bottle, creating a small prism in the night. And then he saw it. The body he had desperately hoped was a figment of his high.

There it was, sprawled out on the ground, limbs stretched out at impossible angles, unmoving and broken. Lost in the horror of it, of what he had, or hadn’t, witnessed, he barely breathed as he struggled to grab his phone out of his pocket. His shaking fingers struggled to type those three simple numbers that were drummed into every child’s head. After what seemed like years, he heard a voice,

“9-1-1. What is your emergency?”
He couldn’t speak, couldn’t make his body do anything. He tried, god he tried, but gargles are the only thing that came out. Numbness crept up his limbs, straight into his chest and it hit him like a feather that this was shock. His phone fell out of his unfeeling hand and he watched it spinning in the air until it hit the ground, shattering on impact.

The numbness hit his head then, mixing with his still-remaining high. His body fell from beneath him hitting the ground with a thunk. His breathing, quiet and even, filled the empty top floor of the parking garage.

I wasn’t aware of the commotion around me. The red and blue flashing lights, the siren song of an ambulance on the run, or the screaming and crying of the small crowd below. All I knew was darkness.

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