Being Dead (Journal Entry #3)

It was 4 years and 5 days ago.  All I have left of her is a CD that was left in my car.

I remember not liking it at first.  It put me off somehow, but she loved it.  Thinking back now on how I should have tried more of that.  Things that she liked in general really.

I had another dream today where she was there.  Where things were fine and we were together.  Another nightmare upon waking.

Some days are worse than others, but today had a particular sting that made me put that CD into my car’s player and listen to it like a last dying message from a long lost love.

And I liked it.

The guitars and violins and the smooth vocals.  Hell, I loved it.

And it made me think that I had changed.  Perhaps even for the better.

But then I was sad again.  Because I realized I had changed in a way that caught up with who she was at the time.  4 years and 5 days later and I was finally the person she would have liked to have been around.  4 years and 5 days too late.

Now, though I move forward, despite my penchant for alcohol to numb the pain, I find myself in an unsoftened place.  Calloused almost in that I’ve grown seemingly accustomed to the stabbing memories.  To the bleeding feelings.  Not sure if that’s called progress, but it’s all I’ve got.

I’m different now.  Changed.  Too late changed.

But I am.

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Inner Monologue

He sat down across from the doctor and tried not to stare at the pen and paper.  He folded his hands together and began.

“I want to begin with a promise.   I came here for help.  I came to you so you can help me.  In the process of all this, if you for any reason think that I’m a danger to myself or others–you tell me.  And then I want your help and not your dismissal.”

The pen started writing.  “Of course.”

“I know it seems odd  to open up with that, but I’m very out of my comfort zone.  I’m very afraid and I am taking your word.”

“Why are you afraid?”

“For the same reason that I’m afraid of hypnotists.”

“Why is that?” 

“It’s the greatest fear man has ever known–the fear of the unknown.”

“That’s understandable, but why me?  Have you opened up to anyone else you know?”

“No.  That’s the thing with fear.  I’m very…I’m just going to start.  Is that okay?  Can I just start  talking?”

“You do whatever you need to do.”

“I’m depressed.”  There is a long pause.

“Yes, I assumed so.  Go on.”

“I’m very sad.”  Another pause.

“Okay…um…well let’s talk about the why?  Do you have a–“

“I’m preoccupied with death.  So much so that I think about killing myself at least once a day.  Often I think of killing others, but then I’m reminded that I don’t believe there is anything after this life and I find myself overwhelmed with a sad sense of sympathy.  And when the rage subsides I’m left with nothing but my own self-loathing.  And the reasons don’t matter.  How I got here or how I became this way or who I am now.  Not to anyone of sound mind or strong heart.  But I’m not those things.  Not anymore.  And I’m terrified to tell the few positive influences in my life how I truly feel, because I know that they will all feel unwelcome and honestly choose to stay away from me.  But if I keep up the lie, then maybe I can at least pretend in a few moments of my life that when those influences are around that everything is and will be okay.”

“Have you tried to kill yourself?”

“No.  I almost drove off a bridge once, but I was in a highly emotional state and realized it.  And again my fear of nothingness keeps me from ending it all.”

“You don’t believe there’s anything at all after death?”

“No.  I was raised a Christian.  Southern Baptist.  They say once you’re saved, you’re always saved.  That bothered me as I got older.  I realized that no matter what I did I was doomed to live all eternity in a blissful existence devoid of my true identity as an alternative to burning in a pit.  Then as I got older I found that I didn’t believe any of it and that it was all just one of hundereds of thousands of stories we tell ourselves so  that death doesn’t scare us out of living our lives.”

“And your parents?”

“Let’s not.”

“…..Alright…What about your–“

“Let’s not do that either.  Like I said, the reasons don’t matter.  The here and now are what concerns me and this is why I came to you.”

“What is?”

“Often, despite my usual depression, I find myself in a heightened state of hysteria.  Deranged  and paranoid in a way that defies any logical rebuttal my mind may have to conquer it.  And I will see things in the corners of my eyes.  I will hear things.  Often my name.  I stare at my reflection a bit too long and it frightens me.”

“What you’re describing–“

“Yes I know.  It runs in the family.  I’ve lived with the fear for many years now.  What I need to know from you is if there is anything I can do and if what I’ve become–this combination of fire and gasoline–will be a threat or not.”

“A-are you asking me…do you mean to say that you believe you ARE a threat to others?”

“That’s for you to decide.”

“Do you think that you are?”

“I think that I’m very very damaged.  And I know for a fact that I’m crazy in a sense that doesn’t involve laughter.”

“The fact that you can even say that sentence implies that you–“

“Yes, I realize what it suggests, but I’m telling you that in the darkest moments of the late hours of my days I am not myself.  And I do not want to live.”

“Well, still, that just sounds like you’re depressed.”

“And sometimes I don’t want the world to live.”

“That’s normal.  Sometimes I don’t want the world to live.  People are horrid to each other and the world is not a kind place.  There’s nothing wrong with that.”

“Are you sure?”

“It’s perfectly natural to be polarized against or for the environment around you–including  yourself and others.”

“And I’m not a threat?”

“You could be.  But honestly, does it matter?  It sounds to me like you understand that you are not well, you are seeking help, and you don’t intentionally want to harm anyone.  In fact, you even  said that you stop yourself based on your own personal beliefs.  If anything I’d say you are depressed and you’ve lost sight of what you want out of life.  I don’t need to know your reasons and I believe every word you are saying.  I just think you need to get it out and move forward with the lies until they either become the truth or you get tired of them and finally confront the truth head on.”

“I can’t confront it.  But time may change things.”

“It will, but seriously you need to consider the idea that you could be wasting time when you could be enjoying it.  All because you’re afraid to tell those around you how you feel.”

“I’ve considered it.  I think the consequences weigh to heavily.”

“Well…in any case, I think you are far from dangerous, but you are keeping a lot locked in without release.  I think you coming to me is a good idea and we should keep doing this until we can work out some of your fears.”

“You can’t work out my fears.  You are my fear.”

“What?”

“You’re not real.  This is just a blog on WordPress that I’m typing dialogue into from my brain where I’m imagining you sitting there, but you don’t have a face.  You are nothing.  Just like me.”

And then he stopped typing and went to bed.

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Being Dead (Chapter 16) TRUTH AND DEATH

A long time had passed since last he’d seen Alan Venar, but John was convinced he was writing.  The date for the next manuscript was upon them and he’d come to collect.  Sure, he could have come by with a pat on the back or just a friendly visit, but something held him back.  Was it work?  Was it Catherine?  Or maybe it was just life itself.  Yes.  Life had become his way of living and consumed him without protest.  He’d barely had time outside of his rigorous job to do much else.  There were a few nights with mates from work and increasingly so, but for the most part he’d spent his days at home in the comfort of his soon-to-be wife and the quietness of his own living room.

John took his bag from work and made his way down the sidewalk and to his car where he found the other manuscripts Alan had written placed on the floorboard just below the seat.  All of them wrapped in a cocoon of bands and the grit of the dirty floor.  He drove to the estate with a spunky, but lilting tune beaming through his speakers.  An acoustic guitar and an energetic voice sang a song about flashlights.  Most sad sounding music made John scoff, but for some reason he kept it on.  It played him through to the small estate where Alan was no doubt inside involved in some kind of artistic panic.  Maybe even a celebration?  No, that wasn’t him at all.  Even in his successes he wasn’t one to celebrate.  He was more the kind of man to drink in order to forget his failures.  And did he drink!  John thought on the consumption levels of his friend and how drowned in pathetic sorrow he had looked the last time they met.  Hopefully he was focused now and put the bottle down.

John opened the door and could smell something old and rotting.  Just like Alan to get so busy that he forgot to do the essentials.  The trash had to have been there for weeks.  Slowly he made his way through the opening of the door and put his coat on the rack.  He contemplated the darkness of the house and in turn the words he had spoken to Alan before.  It was harsh but poignant.  Something Alan needed to hear.  Must have spurred him into an artistic fury.

“Hello?  Alan, I’ve come for the manuscripts!  If you’re naked again, please don’t be.”  He called out with a string of soft laughter trailing off the end.

The house was quiet and nothing seemed to stir.  He made his way down the hallway trying to shake the growing stench of trash, but stopped halfway at a letter taped to the ground with his name on it.

“Oh so we’re playing games again?  Alright, I’ll bite.”  He said as he furiously opened the letter.

It read:

“John,

I’ve come to terms with it all and I understand your frustrations now.  I’ve been a burden on you and everyone else in my life.  I cannot repay your kindness for putting up with me this long.  You even went so far as to take my manuscripts to be published when we both know it would never be nor was it ever.  I’m not a good writer.  I’m not even a good artist.  Or a good human being. I’m just a mediocre person trying to convince myself I’m above average.   I should have done more, I know, but I just don’t want anything really.  There’s nothing I can give this world that it doesn’t already have or that won’t come from someone else.  You were good to make me believe it so long, but, however dark, I have to face the truth.  I was dead long before I killed myself.  Thank you for all you’ve done and for letting me mean something lasting to just one person.  That’s all I ever wanted.

Your friend,

Alan”

He knew.  All that time he knew that his book had not sold.  That no publisher wanted it.  That there was nothing in store for him or his career.  John shook his head and tossed the letter behind him.  “How very sentimental of you.  Thank you for saying so, but you’re not a bad writer, just…”

The stench grew as he made his way to the back room slowly.  The study door was open and he could see inside.  Suddenly he couldn’t breathe and the air seemed to bind his entire body.  Convulsing, he fell to the floor pulling his shaking fingers to his mouth.  There was no light to comfort him from the dangling shadow and the soft creaking.  Creaking slowly left, then right.  Right then left.

dead

Being Dead (Chapter 15) Protagonist

John pulled the sheet from his head and shuffled the mangled mess of hair on his head around until he could see clearly onto the floor.  Slowly he zombie-walked his way through his bathroom, shower, and finally the kitchen where his coffee awaited.  He stared into the hurricane of caffeine and then pinched the bridge of his nose.  He still couldn’t shake Alan’s behavior.  The books weren’t coming along.  The brooding had stopped.  Now there was just the facade of lonely bitterness trying to stay alive for the sake of living at all.

Luckily this morning he would meet at the coffee house and talk like usual.  His second round of brew and he would finally be awake enough to function in the lab.  Maybe even be productive at home afterward.

The shop was slow with only three people in line and two at the scattered tables.  Their faces were worn and half asleep.  Quiet.  Alan looked the worst of them.  He sat alone in the corner, dark circles under his eyes with what facial hair he could barely grow sprouting out of his cheeks.  He had coffee in his cup, but John knew right away there was alcohol in it.   Little rum perhaps.  Maybe his favorite bourbon.

“You look lively.”  He said.

Alan’s eyes slowly shifted upward, while his body remained still.  “Hm.  ‘Lo John.”

“Hello.  More like goodbye; you look like death.”

“I feel like death, mate.  Thanks for the reassurance.”

John sat down at the table with his fresh cup of coffee.

“Don’t ask about the girl.”

“I wasn’t going to ask about the girl.”

“Good.  Don’t ask, then.”

“I won’t.”

They each sipped their drinks and Alan cracked his neck like a clockwork doll.

“You going to tell me what’s wrong?”

Alan glared at him harshly and then away.

“I’m not stupid, Alan.  I’ve known you too long to ignore your bullshit.  Now spit it out.”

“Don’t be such a prick.  A man’s feelings and his pains aren’t something to be laughed at.”

John leaned forward.  “And I’m not laughing, now get on with it.”

At first he said nothing, but then Alan, still looking away, began to speak.  “I know what you’ll say so there’s no point.  I know I’m doing it again and I know what’s going on.  So, spare me your lecture and let’s just move on with it.”

“Not good enough,” said John.

“I said, crack on.” Alan hissed.

“Fine, where’s the next book?”

Alan said nothing.

“So, back to the easier questions, then.”

“It’s not that easy–”  Alan started.  John cut him off.

“It’s really fucking easy, Alan!  It’s always easy, you just make it so damn hard, now get it out or I’m leaving.”

He shifted in his seat and sat up straight.  Alan’s bottom lip went up into a scowl and John knew he had struck him right on the perfect nerve.

“You wouldn’t understand.  You’ve always had Catherine and no one else.  You’ve never faced rejection nor have you chosen anyone but her.  Literally everything I’ve ever gone through is mere fiction in your perspective.  Something to analyze like a silly novel about torn lovers you can never relate to.”  Alan went to sip his coffee, but stopped himself.

John ruffled his brow, “You think that because I’ve only been with Catherine that I’m incapable of empathy toward you?”

“Not empathy—understanding.  You will never know precisely what it’s like.  I’m a work of fantasy to you.”

John laughed menacingly, “If that’s the truth then you’d be healthy, rich, and not so damned annoying!”

Alan took a drink this time.

“When are you going to stop this lashing yourself and get on with it?  I mean, really move forward?”  Asked John with sincerity.

It was silent and then Alan took another sip of his coffee.  “I can move forward.  I can.  The problem is that I’m not sure I want to.”

John scoffed at him, “As if I didn’t already know that!”

Alan looked away.  “I don’t like my life without her in it.  It’s not worth living.  It’s too different.  Yes, it could be something amazing, but I don’t like it.  I want her there.  I want what we had.”  His gaze was blank and sorrowful.  It made John uneasy.

“Alan, I understand that.  I really do.  You loved her very much.  But we’ve been through this.  She left you for reasons she concocted and you did your very best to suit her fancies all the way to the end.  All that was left was your pride in knowing that.  She wasn’t worth it.”  Said John softly.

His friend looked back at him from the blank abyss and directly into his eyes.  “You’re wrong.  Despite her faults and ill-thought attempts to conjure a way to leave me, she was worth more than anything in this world.”

The talking of the other patrons fell over them as they stared at each other.  There was no leeway and there would be none given on the subject of Estelle.  John could see that now.

“So what do you plan to do?  Drink yourself into oblivion?”  Asked John finally.

Another sip of coffee and then Alan responded, “I’m taking it a day at a time.  Some days are better than others.”

“Alan, you’re depressed and you need help.”

“I’m dead.  I can’t get help.”

“I can get someone to see you without them knowing who you are.”

“I don’t want that kind of help.”

“Alan, you’re coming apart at the seams…”

“And maybe what’s left will be less of a bother.  Now, how are you and Catherine?”

John made a puzzled face.  “Fine.  We’re quite fine.”

“And the wedding?”  Asked Alan, this time taking a long drink.

“Coming along.  Shouldn’t be any problems.”

“Outside of your mother you mean.”  Said Alan with a smirk.

“Always, but we’ll manage.”  John cringed at the thought.  “About your book—.”  Alan cut him off.

“I have four chapters to write before the month is out and then it’s done.  You can expect it by the 27th.”  Alan cocked his head sideways expecting his friend to be impressed.  He was not.

“Good then.  Well, I’d better be off to the lab.  Try to get some sleep, would you?  You look like the main character in a disaster movie.”  Said John with a laugh.  He stood up with his coffee in hand and smiled over at Alan.

“Disaster movies have good endings and the main character always survives.”

John nodded, “Exactly.  Crack on.  I’ll see you again soon.”

As he exited the coffee shop, Alan gazed deeply into the brown swirls of liquid in his cup and thought on the ending to his story.  If he were the main character, what would he stand for?  What would the purpose of the story be?  And better yet, what would become of him at the last page?   He went to take another long drink, but stopped.  This time he tossed it in the trash behind him, stood up, and slowly made his way back to the Venar estate where he would continue writing the story that drove him to write in the first place.  He could see it clearly now–the story he wanted to tell– and in his drunken haze he continued to move forward.

WRITING

Being Dead (Journal Entry #2)

I danced with her tonight.  All the rum was gone, but she was here.  Her songs were playing and the sad lulls lifted us across the floor.  I could feel her smiling up at me.  I missed her eyes and her hair and her lips and my arms around her.  My hands on her back.  God I missed her.  The music played us out until she left me again.  And I stopped dancing.  I stopped drinking.  There was no more left.  No rum.  No more rum.

I’m a ghost.  Ha ha!  I’m a ghost!  Dancing here with a memory!  I wonder if the neighbors see me?  Am I frightening?  Am I sad?  A wilting apparition to be pitied or something menacing?  I danced with her tonight!  Oh how we danced!  So much that I have to sleep.  I must sleep soon.  I’m so sleepy.  She was so beautiful.  Perfect and graceful.  Vibrant life.  I miss her so much.  What is left of this ghost?  Where is the rum?  I’ll get more.  Then I’ll see her again!  She’ll come back and we’ll dance again.  Maybe longer this time.  Yes!  But first sleep.  Sleep and then rum.  Rum and then sleep.

She was so beautiful.

–Alan Venar

Being Dead (Journal Entry #1)

Today I was washed over with overwhelming sadness.  I walked into my empty house and felt it swelling from within.  She wasn’t here.  This was all wrong.  And after a few moments I cascaded slowly into my routine.  My false movements.  My fake life.  I sat down to write, but nothing came.  Instead I listened to the last band she mentioned loving.  I curled up in a ball and I listened to the forlorn words.  I should have known.  I should have been better.  I should not be here.

I really am a dead man.  This is not my life.  I am not who I think I am.  I am not who I tell myself I am.  I’m just a shadow of someone that died almost two years ago.  Just a fake nothing without purpose.  And yet somehow I sat up on the bed and I wrote this.  I fought the urge to drink my pain away again and I wrote this.  I didn’t call out to anyone.  I didn’t act like I was fine.  And deep within my mind I think that maybe, I might have admitted that I am depressed.  I might have acknowledged that the situation won’t ever get better and that nothing can be salvaged from it.  The good that I do in this falsehood may not be worth all the bitterness and sorrow it brings me.

A fake smile and a fake life.  An empty bottle and a growing desire to burn out my lungs with the death wish of my ancestors.  I’m just a sad little liar with nothing to prove and nothing to gain.

Exactly what she said I was.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll be someone else.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll really be dead.  Or maybe, it could all be a dream.  A lavish nightmare to beckon me from my Scrooged life and undo my mistakes before they happened.  Before I ruined everything.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

And so I leave to sleep or not or to routine myself to death or not or to make some new excuse for swayed focus.  Life goes on.  Death goes on.  I am death.  I live dead.  And I cannot change being dead.  And in that death there is no chance to sleep.  No chance to dream.  There is only despair.  And I am sure that in all my complaints and squabbles that I deserve it.

I truly do.

–Alan Venar

Being Dead (Chapter 14) BED AND DRINK

John awoke as usual and stepped out of his bed and toward his bathroom.  A steady stream of urine followed by the start of a coffee pot.  Catherine was already awake and getting a light breakfast prepared.  She would take him to work like every other day with a sweet kiss goodbye until he was done in the lab and on his way home to her loving arms once more.

Today he would spend his time wading through samples and labeling viruses without a hitch.  His co-workers would stay out of his way and the usual corporate idiocy would be spared just this once.  It would return the next day or the next after that he was sure, but today was rather calm.  He was surprised to have such an easy day and decided to spend his good mood on his oldest friend.  A few days had passed since he’d last seen Alan Venar, but surely nothing had changed.  Or rather, maybe everything had changed in a way the best suited Alan.  It seemed he was a master of constantly changing and shifting his feelings and thoughts while maintaining the consistency of always doing so.

But the last time he’d seen him, Alan was different.  A cold sadness veiled by his forward gaze.  And then the letter he’d seen only a glance of.  The one sent to his former love.  Perhaps it was over.  And perhaps it was not.  Perhaps it could never be over.  That was the game he’d come to know from Alan.  A game of his own mind in which he played against himself for the sake of no one but for the idea of love and aesthetics.  He was the king of falling in love.  Falling for women.  For ideals.  For beauty.  For admirable traits as well as the darkest shadows cast by most loathsome of abusers.  He always fell for the extremes.  For the subtleties.  And for the game itself.

John made his way to the Venar estate and walked into the chamber of his friend without a thought.  Having a key and technically owning it led him to believe there would be no incident walking directly in.  The naked body of his friend and a very attractive younger woman made him immediately think otherwise.

“What the hell?  Whoa!  Sorry!  Leaving now!”  Said John in a quick turn toward the way he had come in.

“Wait!  John!  Wait!”   He heard calling back to him.

In a rush Alan made his way over to him with as thin sheet wrapped around his waist.

“Sorry, I didn’t think to hang a sock on the door.  So used to it being mine, you know?  What’re you here for so early and on an off day?  It’s not like you to break routine.”  Said Alan.

John avoided looking down.  “Wha–I just…well I thought I’d stop in and see how you were doing…not WHO…”

“Ha ha ha!  Look at you making jokes, you old square!  I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were coming or I’d have made you some supper while I had my dessert!”

“Now who’s funny?  Well, I’ll be on my way–”

He was cut off as the beautiful young woman made her way out of the room and wrapped her naked body around Alan.

“Alan, come back!  Who’s your friend?”  She said.

In that moment John noticed that the young girl looked remarkably like Estelle.  A younger and peppier version, but the likeness was uncanny.

“I’ll be back in a bit, love.  This is my best friend, John.  Don’t worry I won’t be long.”  They kissed and she made her way back to the room with a slight smile toward her bedmate.

Alan and John stared at each other in silence.

“What?”  Said Alan finally.

“You know what!  Jesus, she looks just like her!”

“Oh come on!  She’s much younger and prettier and they’re nothing alike.  I promise.  Arissia is way better in bed!”

“Alan, I’m happy that you’re moving…on, but this may not be in the right direction.”  Said John.  “And my God, how much have you had to drink?”  He pointed to the empty bottles on the table beside him.

“So sorry, mother.  I’ll act like a gentleman from now on.”

John shook his head.  “Is everything a joke to you?”

Alan snickered, “Only the things that matter.”

“Seriously, you have been drinking more and more since all this ruckus began.  I thought your ‘death’ would have at least made your life easier to cope with.”  John put his hand on his friends bare shoulder.

Alan smiled softly and looked away, “‎”Have you ever had one of those days where before you can tell if it’s going to be bad or good you can already tell that you’re going to need a drink at the end of it? Funny thing that word, “need”. It beckons the idea of necessity as if one could not do without and as for things that one cannot go without, we find there are many things the opposite that we have garnered an overabundance of–things that create the former idea of drinking. And thus the alcoholic is understood and embraced.”  He lifted a bottle and took a long drink of it.

“So now you’re an alcoholic?”  Asked John with his brow crumpled tightly.

“I’ve gone without many things that are necessary…I’d say I’m doing considerably well, wouldn’t you?”

“If you say so.  I’ll be on my way now.  Next time at least leave that sock on the door.  It’s bad enough I have to keep up this lie while dealing with your damned publisher.  I don’t need to see your ass too.”

Alan laughed at him.

“Speaking of, you haven’t given me anything to send to the publishers lately.  I’ll be needing a manuscript for the next book in a month.”

“I’ll have it done…I just haven’t been writing lately.  Don’t worry, It’ll get done.  I’ve just been preoccupied…Arissia and I have been going out a lot lately…in disguise of course.  Seriously, I’ve got it covered.”  Alan frantically pulled at the sheet around his waist and followed John to the door.

“Well make sure of it.  And prioritize.  Don’t get distracted by another girl.”  John regretted saying it as soon as the words left his mouth, but it was done.

Alan gave a faint smile as he took the blow with grace.  He patted his friend on the back and sent him out.

John turned to the window and thought for a moment on the last time he had seen his friend so caught up in someone else.  Even with Catherine around, he had let himself get so defined by routine that he had not noticed his friend’s absence in both mind and body.  The manuscripts weren’t coming because his friend was becoming happier every day by distracting himself with frivolity and an obsession with beauty.  The new girl was his crutch, but also his nightmare.  A hindrance to his creativity and a drug to appease his illness.  John knew the cycle far too well.

But he could do nothing.  And in deciding so, John returned to his home.  To his fiance.  And to his life devoid of such troubled darkness like the ghosts dwelling in Alan Venar’s mind and sheets.  In truth he was a bit scorned, but a voice in the back of his head compelled him to believe the idea that maybe, just maybe, Alan could find a way out with this newly sought happiness despite whatever form it may have taken.  But John knew deep down that his nagging intuition would always prove true–that this could not end well at all.