Short Story: Fortitude

I’ve always admired those who possess an inner strength, a source of conviction in themselves that sees them past the dark moments in their lives. My mother had it when she kicked that bastard of a father of mine when she caught him cheating on her with the neighbor’s daughter, my former babysitter. I witnessed it firsthand when my sister’s husband was sent to Afghanistan, returning in a flag-draped casket.

My grandfather displayed a quiet sort of courage when my grandmother was diagnosed with ALS, staying by her side as her physical strength failed her. He helped her around until the moment she was bedridden. Cleaned out her trach when she was put on a respirator. I saw him feed her through a g-tube in her stomach, changed her diaper, sponged her clean and combed her hair. He never complained, even as he saw the love of his wife succumb to the disease, dying finally of respiratory failure shortly after their forty-ninth wedding anniversary.

I’ve seen so many examples of courage, and I envy them that strength for it’s something I lack. I was born a coward. I don’t know how else to say it. I’m weak. I’m pathetic. I’m that guy no one likes because I can always be counted on to slink back into the shadows when it counts, and I hate myself for my own weakness.

I have a 9mm in front of me, next to the half-empty fifth of Jack. I just stumbled back into my hotel room, a trailed by the ice I spilled as I came back, locking the door behind. I downed the tumbler in one gulp, threw a handful of ice and splashed another measure into my cup, drowning myself in licor, wallowing in my dispair. I’ve been in tears for the past few days, hiding here, ignoring the constant calls and texts on my phone.

Rejection is something I’ve never learned to deal with. I’m not talking about getting shot down by somebody, or not getting something I wanted. I’m speaking of falling in love and having my heart ripped out of my chest. The kind of heartbreak that makes you want to kill and seek revenge. I had experienced it a couple of times before, and tried to kill myself both times, but I was discovered by my mother at the last moment, and locked in some psych hospital until I got over my suicidal thoughts.

That’s when I learned how to deal with it. I learned to read the signs, learned to read the body language of my lovers. I learned to anticipate when they were done with me and I learned to steel myself and dump them first. There was something satisfying in seeing them begging me to stay, eyes shot red with tears, their egos unable to cope with being dumped, even when they were already planning on dumping me.

It was a rejection of a sort, but I took control, and that made the difference, I think. But this? I could never have predicted it. It was a wholly different sort of rejection. She still loved me, or she said so countless times as I ran from the room. I heard her sobbing on each message she left on my phone. I heard her heart cracking in her voice, but I didn’t give a shit. She broke me first.

I had left town for a few days, my job sending to negotiate a contract with some  son of a bitch with deep pockets and a need for a new supplier. The negotiations went quicker than I had anticipated and came home a day early. I didn’t tell my fiance, wanting to surprise her. Instead, I was the one who was surprised when I heard her upstairs, recognizing the sounds of her moans in the throes of ecstasy. I hoped she was playing with herself, like she usually did, several times a day in fact, but I didn’t think so. I recognize her every moan and grunt, with me and when she plays with herself. This was different.

A slunk upstairs, praying not to see her in bed with some other guy, and my prayers were answered in a fashion. Instead of another man, I found my sister’s face buried between her legs, my fiance’s eyes rolled back. Nothing could have prepared me to see my naked sister, her ass in the air, mocking me as she went down on the woman I loved. I must have made some sound as what I saw hit me in the gut, and I sobbed as my heart fell into the pit of my stomach. My sister turned in horror as she saw me and tried to cover herself, but I didn’t have eyes for her. My eyes were locked onto the woman I had allowed myself to fall in love with, though I had long promised myself never to allow myself that unfortunate weakness.

But I had, and here I am, drunk and wishing I had the courage to either face the world after being humiliated by my once fiance and that bitch of a sister, or put the barrel down my throat and pull the trigger. Pills and drink won’t do this time, nor will cutting my wrists. It has to be the gun and the one bullet with my expiration date written on the casing. I want the pain to end.

It’s been two days and no one knows where I am. I parked my car and hitched a ride out of town, taking only the gun I keep on me at all times. I paid for the room with cash, and everything else for that matter. I didn’t want a way for anyone to track me. I don’t want to be found. I just want it all to end.

I’ve played with the gun, running my fingers down the barrel, caressing the potential instrument of my dispatchment with loving strokes, before setting it down and picking up my Jack again. Two days of toying with my eminent death, wondering whether or not I can do it, but not wanting to face the world mocking my embarrassment. The pain is too much to bear.

I jumped to my feet as I heard voices outside the door, picking up the gun to protect myself. “Johnny?” I heard my mother’s frantic voice pleading to me from the other side of the door. “Are you in there?” I shrank back as she pounded on the door. “Please open up! Don’t do this to me!”

How did they find me, I wondered. I put the gun into my mouth, tears streaming down my face. All I need was one moment of courage to ease myself into oblivion. Let the others worry about cleaning up the gore I leave behind. No one gave a damn about the mess they put me in. One moment is all. All that’s left is to pull the trigger. My whole body shakes with anticipation and fear. Either this or a lifetime of dealing with the aftermath of their betrayal.

I close my eyes as someone breaks down the door and they rush in. Now or never, courage and strength and the eternal darkness. Now or never….


Short Stories

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4 thoughts on “Short Story: Fortitude

  1. Pingback: Short Story: Nice Guy | Joe Hinojosa

  2. Pingback: Short Story: Roadtrip | Joe Hinojosa

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