Short Story: The price of love

Love is stupid. Yeah, I said it. Maybe love makes people stupid, or at least makes sane people do stupid things. Maybe it’s part of it, or all of it, or maybe it’s just me. I don’t know. I used to know, just like everyone’s an expert until you’re mired in something and you realize just how little you know. I just don’t know.

Right now she’s clinging to life on the barest of threads. The doctors say she’ll go at any moment, but they’ve been saying that for almost a week. Experts my ass! It hurts to see her like this, a woman in the prime of her life. She should be living her life, but the irony is that if she were, she wouldn’t be here with me. Like I said, love makes people stupid, me included.

I was never the kind of guy girls noticed. Sure they were nice to me, smiled at me, became my friend. I was, as I later learned, non-threatening. I was safe, the kind of guy they could trust, the guy they could talk to because I was understanding, and kind. I was the kind of nice they all claimed they wanted, but in reality didn’t. I soon came to believe that nice was code for loser.

Then I met Carly. Carly was like the rest of them, except she gave me something no one had ever given me: a chance. We started dating my sophomore year of college. She had broken up with her boyfriend, a star on the basketball team. He was the typical douche athlete, and all the women wanted him, and he obliged, never mind that he had a girlfriend.

So she dumped him and soon started dating me. I hadn’t realized it at the time, but I was just a rebound, worse still that she used me to make him jealous. Losing out to a guy like me made him crazy jealous, and I was too blind to see it. She soon dumped me and took him back. I was devastated.

Carly, just so you know, was, in those days, a beauty. The years and her illness have ravaged her, but beneath her withered and pained expression lingers the ghost of her former glory. She was blond, with hazel eyes, pale skin, and the cutest freckles on her nose. She had a magnetic personality, and she could make friends with anyone, even a recluse like me. She drew people to her, a flame pulling in another moth to become her next victim.

She was my first girlfriend, my first grown-up girlfriend, I should say. I had a few summer flings in camp growing up. Hold hands, an awkward peck on the lips, that sort of thing. I lost my virginity with her, fell madly in love with her, and it tore me to shreds being dumped the way she did me. I was just a cog in her plan to win back her dream boy.

I fell to pieces. No one knew it by seeing me. I was so straitlaced that no one would ever have seen my inner turmoil, not that anyone was close enough to have known. I was for all intents and purposes, friendless. I suffered alone. I just turned my attention to my studies to cope.

But I had become obsessed with her, but I just accepted it. What could I do? Even I, for all my naivette, understood that I had no chance to win her back. I could admit defeat and walk away with some vestiges of dignity, or I could pine for some woman who had made a fool of me.

Funny thing is that dating her had made me seem more interesting to some other woman. I began to date. I found a serious girlfriend my junior year, and we dated for almost two years, up until a week before graduation. I found myself as I broadened my horizons, and I found some confidence as I came into my own. I had become a man.

But I never got over Carly.

She would come around every so often, this damned woman. Every time she dumped a guy, or they dumped her, she would come by. I broke off a few relationships because of her, including that serious girlfriend, someone with whom I could have married. I know because she had been hinting at it for months. I loved her in a way, but she wasn’t Carly. She couldn’t compete with her, and she never knew she was competing with her. I did her wrong. I did to her what Carly had done to me, and I regret it.

Carly knew that I was obsessed with her, and she took advantage of it. She used me to boost her ego when she was feeling down. She used me to get over her failed relationships. I was nothing more than a plaything to occupy her time until some more suitable asshole stole her attention.

It went on like this for a couple of years, until the year we became 27. Almost everyone we knew was getting married, having children, settling down. Carly decided it was time to grow up and get with the agenda and get married, so she did, to a guy named Kurt. Just like that, I was cast aside for the last time.

By then I had grown used to it. I was tired of it and it came as a relief. Yes it hurt, and yes I cried, but I was also glad that I could gleam some measure of closure. This cruel game had come to an end, and I could finally move on.

I met a girl, dated, and we became engaged. Everything was going great, until Carly came into the picture to ruin my life one last time. My engagement fell apart, mainly because of Carly, but also because my fiancee was cheating on me with one of my friends, something Carly was all too happy to point out.

Carly’s marriage had fallen apart because her husband wanted a family, and she couldn’t conceive. It was impossible. Uterean cancer had taken her chance of having a family, and with it her hope for the life she had wanted.

The cancer was in remission, she told me, but I think she knew something that she didn’t let on, that the cancer would return, which it did a couple of years later. In the meantime, we rekindled our relationship, and this time it stuck. Carly had become domesticated. Gone was the wild girl I had fallen in love with. Her love was subdued, tamed, and I think it was because she knew she was dying soon.

We got married as soon as the ink from her divorce had dried. At thirty-one I had my dream woman, but I could sense that it was not going to last. Her fire had been extinguished, and she no longer felt the need to lead me on. I knew she was using me again, and because I was so in love with her, I let her, and I let her to this day.

She came back not because she loved me, but because I loved her. She knew no one would take her. Carly was damaged goods. Those are her words, by the way, not mine. She didn’t want to die, and though the doctors had told her that her cancer was gone, she felt that they were wrong.

After four years of marriage, the cancer came back. This time there was nothing to be done. It had spread to her lungs, her kidneys, her brain. It was attacking her, killing her slowly, and no chemotherapy, no radiation, could save her.

Now, a week before our fifth anniversary, she lays in our bed, a hospice worker coming in daily to check up on her, and a nurse does as well. She didn’t want to die alone and she knew I would take her back.

I hate myself for letting her do this to me, but I am powerless. I’ve come to believe that I don’t really love her. I think I’m obsessed with her as the woman I couldn’t hold on to, Now that I have her, I’ve come to see that I don’t love her like I thought I did. Even so, I never walked away. I’m a nice guy after all. I ended up with the girl, though not in the way I might have wanted, but I have her. Til death do us part. I just wish I hadn’t had to find a way to give her cancer to make her come back to me. I wish I didn’t need to kill her to keep her from leaving me again.

She’ll never know that my work with cancer was never to find a cure, but to learn to manipulate it, to weaponize it. She’ll never know, and soon, she’ll never know anything again.

Love is stupid? Maybe, but love turned me into a monster, and I’ll never be nice again.

 


Short Stories

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I write…

WritingI write. I write because no one cares to listen to what say. I write to purge the angst from my soul, to liberate myself from the weight that threatens to burden me beyond endurance. I write because I have something to say, a piece of me that I want to share. I write because I must.

I wish I could say that I don’t care if anyone reads what I write, but that would be a lie. I want to be read, I want for people to glimpse into that part of me, the part that I keep hidden, protected from a cold, uncaring world. I have this light that I want shone across the great expanse, but people shun it, closing their own windows, leaving me wondering what the point of this futility is.

I write, but I don’t know why I bother. To share with everyone only to be ignored is the worst rejection from a lifetime of rejection. I suppose it’s my curse to bear, and I try to bear it stoically, but sometimes the pain bursts from me unawares, before I even have a chance to shore up my defenses. Then I feel ashamed of my own weakness, but that’s the price of being human, of needing someone to accept up for who we are.

I’m a writer, and I’m a bag of paradoxes and contradictions. I’m flippant and sarcastic, but also earnest and sincere. I’m hopeful and optimistic, but broken down by experience to the point where only my pessimism is allowed to show. I want to be liked, but I’m afraid of putting myself out there, to be rejected and hated. I want to love, but love comes with the inherent risk of being brokenhearted, and I don’t know if I can survive another heartbreak.

So I hide behind my keyboard, exploring the human condition from which I separate myself. I explore love and hate, hope and despair, life and death, from the safe, ignoble distance of my imagination, but at what cost? Have I lost something of my humanity?

I write, but am I worth reading. I wonder but have no answer, and who is there who has one for me, and would I listen even if there were?

Piece of the wrong puzzle

Puzzled

puzzle perspective

puzzle perspective (Photo credit: jugbo)

It’s hard to describe what my life is at the moment. It’s a jumble, a fragmented picture that I’m trying to piece together without a clear understanding of what the picture is supposed to be. Do you understand how frustrating it is?

Where does this piece go?

Here?

No.

Screw it. I’ll set it over here for the moment and deal with it later.

Playing the “What If” Game

I’m finishing up the last of my college. I have spoken about his often, probably because this is something I have wanted for a long time. I’ve often wondered where I would be today had I done the intelligent thing and finished over a decade ago. If I hadn’t stopped in 1999, presumably I could have graduated by 2000. Would my life have been better? Worse?

What if? I know you’ve played that game before. What if I had gone out with this person instead? What if I had taken that job? What if..?  What if…?  What if…?

The problem with this is that it presumes that we have the ability to know what would have happened. In hindsight everything seems so painfully obvious, but the problem is that what we know is a result of our experience. Had we gone and taken that other path, that what if, we very well could be asking what if we had done the very thing you currently wish you could have avoided.

You only ask because maybe things would have been better the other way.

In flight

But what I’ve discovered is that I’m a man still in flight, fleeing a past that has probably been long forgotten by the other party. Is this normal? When something traumatic happens, is it only a trauma to one and not the other? Could something that is holding me back be a non-issue for the other?

I realized that I’m still running away from the ghosts of my past yesterday afternoon. I had to go to the bank inside a Walmart to take care of an outstanding issue that I should have dealt with ages ago. Took fifteen minutes and I was done. Typical.

Anyway I left the bank and I wandered around the store and I felt apprehension. Why? Because that’s where the forsaken she-devil works. I’ve avoided the department that she works in ever since we broke up. Forget the obvious that she works at a store 400 miles away, but I really have no idea if she still works there, at the store, in that department, or even in the company. I could easily find out, but why do that to myself?

So why avoid it? I’ve conditioned myself to avoid it. Being in the area brings back memories which makes me sad, fills me with pain and anger, and all I want to do is to escape. I leave. I feel better. I think that may constitute negative reinforcement.

I haven’t dealt with the underlying problem. I ran away from it, from her. At the time the pain was all-consuming, it encompassed my entire being. Those close to me are probably better able to describe how I was than I am. I shut down. I didn’t function really for a long time. I lost my job because of it and look at me now.

So walked in, half-expecting to see her, knowing that I was being an idiot. I walked around, trying to break the synaptic connections that make me associate that department to the girl who hurt me. She hurt me, and she works there so being there brings back the pain.

Walk around.

Look at bbq things.

She’s not here.

Cool patio set

I wish I could see her.

What would I say?

Nothing. I’d run away.

I’ll have to go back more often to free myself of that particular association. It’s silly, but is it really? I’ve decided that it isn’t. I’m entitled to my feelings and I’m entitled to dealing with them in my own time. Emotions are too complex to figure out.

Some of you might be judging me, you may say I’m weak, that I fell apart. What can I say to that? Fuck you. That’s what. You don’t know me. You don’t know the experiences that I’m gone through. What would it take for you to fall apart? You’re not as strong as you suppose. We all have a breaking point, and the trigger may be something you’d never see coming.

So what now?

I live my life, that’s what. I walked around and window shopped for a while, but I didn’t buy anything. I left and drove to the Barnes and Noble to escape into fantasy. I walked in, after being gone since 2000, I’m immediately flooded with memories from an even more distant past. A less painful past.

I walked around, glimpsing at the thousands of stories there were to be discovered. It was nice to be surrounded by books. The feel, the smell, the connection you get by the tactile immediacy of holding a book. It’s wonderful and joyous and marvelous and…

Oh shit.

Do I really expect to join all of these books, vying for shelf space, hoping to attract a readership? Am I good enough? Do I have a story to tell? Would anyone be willing to spend their time and money to read what I have to say?

Don’t know.

So I walked around, forgetting myself and my troubles, leaving my doubts and fears behind, and I shopped for a story, somebody else’s story. There are so many books to choose from, so what do I get? I looked for a book, and it took me several minutes to remember the name, but who was the author? Crap. Oh there it is, magically appearing before me on a display. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. This was a NaNoWriMo novel she wrote and got published. I had to get it.

I walked around some more, searching but not finding, wondering if it did so poorly that B&N decided to discreetly banish it from the store. An employee asked me what I wanted. “The Casual Vacancy,” I replied sheepishly. Why sheepishly? It’s my money, and I’ve been wanting to read it ever since I knew J K Rowling was going to publish a non-Harry Potter book. Screw reviews I’ve seen. I wanted it.

Books in hand, and almost $60 poorer, I left the bookstore, knowing that there were better things on which to spend the money, but nothing that would give me more pleasure. I got into my car, went to Kohl’s and bought me a shirt. Happy, I got into my car, went through the drive through of a McDonald’s, and headed home.

So? What the hell is the point?

That’s the puzzle, isn’t it? You live, you have an epiphany, and life goes on. Here soon I’ll have my degree in hand, and I’ll find a job and then what? Hopefully I’ll find someone to blur the edges of my bad memories and who will dull the hurt that I guess I’ll still have. I know I still harbor resentment. Will that ever go away?

Who knows, but I have two books to read, and a few stories percolating in my head. I have a quiz on Monday, an exam on Tuesday, and an essay to read on Wednesday. And you know, I should probably start working on my mental health project that’s due on the 25th.

Life goes on and you deal with things as they come. I’m slowly dealing with her, but you know what, she’s not as big a piece of my life and I once thought. And you know what? That puzzle piece I couldn’t figure out where it went? It doesn’t even belong to my picture and I can chuck it into the trash can.

And just like that, maybe I’ll be able to throw her away, just as she did me. She doesn’t belong in my picture so why keep her on the table, and life moves on.