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Read Time:13 Minute, 53 Second

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(Some story I wrote c. 2012. I think I wrote it for a class)

Dim, yellow light flickers over the brown walls, saturated from broken pipes leaking within them. Mold and mildew fill the room with the stench of decay, the thin layer of water beneath the linoleum floor rotting away the wood. The floor beneath his feet squishes with uncertain stability with every alteration of pressure. From one corner of the stained bathtub, a line of ants winds its way across the peeling floor to the trash bin bursting with used tissues and discarded toiletries. Between his feet, a small puddle of crimson takes formation, fed by the droplets of blood running down the fingertips of his left hand. His right hand holds the thin blade to his wrist, just deep enough to slice the flesh and bleed. His hand trembles, pressing the blade further and drawing it down. He stops before hitting the artery.

 “Please, God,” his voice shakes. He sniffles and his eye clench shut. Tears form between his lashes, accumulating into droplets upon his cheeks.

 “Please, God,” he repeats quietly. “Give me a reason. Give me a reason not to.”

His mind races to find a connection; an attachment to keep him alive, any excuse to live. His friends cross his mind, one after the other; a homely group of individuals who either buy or supply all forms of narcotics they can acquire. Their biggest concern will most likely be the mess he leaves in their bathroom. What few possessions he owns will be divided amongst them before his body is disposed of. People around here often disappear without a trace. They know how, and none of the authorities will bother with the area. They won’t even be contacted; the contents of the pockets of anyone he knows here are enough for several years in prison, and their closets are federal cases.

Images of his mother dance across the back of his eyelids; the call, the grief, the tears, the screams, the depression, all repeated at the funeral. Her life will fall apart until she can forget enough to fall back into normality. But she will probably never know. No one will call her; no one knows her, and no one cares. Her son just vanished, stopped calling, pushed her from his life; likely fell into the abusive habits of the area’s general populous, became another statistic. She’ll be fine, if she doesn’t know, and she’ll never know.

Would anyone at work notice? They will obviously take notice that his tasks are undone and that he has missed multiple days. They will bad-mouth him and someone will have to take up his workload, doing double the work to compensate until they grow to hate him. He will be labeled a no-call-no-show, be replaced, and become the subject of ridicule and conversation for weeks to follow with no one ever knowing what really happened to him.

 “Where are you, God?”

A sudden pounding at the door jerks his mind back to the physical realm of existence. He tenses, freezing in place, terrified of the concept of being seen, of being caught in this moment of weakness. The thought of being ridiculed, prodded, teased by the inhabitants; not only for being weak enough to consider this in the first place, but for not having the will and dedication to finish the job.

The blade slips from his fingers, the light metal clinks against the floor, bounces once and comes to rest within the pool between his feet. Seconds pass like minutes as he sits in frozen silence, watching the door. Each knock against the wood visibly buckles the door, threatening to force it off its hinges with each blow and send it flying into the tub.

 “Jamie?!” A low voice calls from the outside. “You done in there? Come on, dude, it’s the only bathroom in the house!”

Drawing his eyes away from the door and becomes aware of himself; his breathing has become quick, shallow gasps of air, his heart pounds in his chest. His distant gaze comes to focus upon the bleeding wound of his wrist. New tears form at the thought of his actions, fear of what he almost accomplished, disappointment in what he failed to finish. He wipes his eyes upon the back of his right wrist before clasping his hand over the wound, clenching it tightly to obstruct the flow. It’s hardly more than a deep scratch, it will heal.

 “Y-yeah,” Jamie stutters in response to the door. He closes his eyes, squeezing them tight to hold back further tears and takes a deep breath to steady his breathing. “I’m just… cleaning up.”

 “Be quick, man, I’ve really got to shit!”

Keeping his hand over his wrist, Jamie pulls a wad of tissue from the roll with the blood drenched fingers of his left hand. Slowly, distractedly, he leans down and wipes at the pool on the damp floor. It smears across the yellow linoleum, soaks into the tissue, and is discarded in the toilet. Once the mess is off the floor and flushed away, he moves to the sink, turns on the hot water and thrusts his hands into it. The evidence of his weakness runs from his hands, swirls about the sink and vanishes beneath the stopper. With the wound exposed he can see what little damage was done; it’s not enough to change anything, but at least it’s not too deep. A flesh wound. Already, it’s almost stopped bleeding.

 “Dude!”  The man outside the door makes his presence known.

Without response, Jamie examines the wound to ensure it’s not bleeding too noticeably, then slides his bracelets back down his forearm to cover it, and pulls the door open. The man outside it pushes through the door way, his short, round body bumping the taller man aside.

Jamie stares off down the hall. On the left, photos of the owner’s family line the narrow hall, leaving only the options of walking the path sideways, or knocking the frames from their delicate perches. To the right are the second and third bedrooms, each of which is hardly larger than a van. The twin mattresses in either of the rooms take up most of the floor space; piles of clothes, junk and trash occupy the rest of it.  A cloud of smoke fills the view at the end of the hall, the cat-piss smell of Marijuana filling the house, overpowering the incense lit to mask the intent of this gathering.

“Close the door, man.”

Jamie glances over his shoulder, reaching out to grab the handle and close the door to the bathroom. Immediately, his head jerks away and his eyes clench shut in disgust.

“Jesus, Kip!” He almost yells, quickly closing the door on the pant less man squatting over the toilet bowl and moving a few steps down the hall, ignoring the obnoxious laughter from the bathroom. He rubs at his eyes through their lids, replacing the image with bright blurs of red and white. His eyes open to a blurred vision and moves down the hall, his right shoulder against the wall to keep from the frames. It takes only a half dozen steps to reach the end of the hall.

Lingering on the outer edge of the cloud, Jamie watches the gathering. Four young men surround the coffee table, occupying whatever surface lays closest to their desired substance. Two share the loveseat, taking their turns leaning over the table to snort the lines of white powder. One sits upon the couch, head back upon the cushions; his only sign of life is the occasional act of bringing his bottle to his lips for another swig. The fourth sits upon the floor, his back braced against the couch with a pipe hanging from his lips, watching the flickering screen of the television as a crowd bursts into laughter at some comedian’s antics.

None of the room’s inhabitants take notice of his return; between the drugs in their system, their present activities – rolling, cutting, scraping, lighting, snorting – and the visual stimulation given them by the T.V., they lack the mental capability to register his presence.

“Nnh!” Jamie groans loudly in protest as his face hits the wall, the force of the shove throwing him to the side. Photos rattle from their nails as the wall is jarred, threatening to fall.

“You’re blocking the hall,” Kip declares as he forces his way by, still fitting his jeans about his waist and tightening his belt. He moves into the cloud, his figure becoming a hazy silhouette against what little sunlight creeps in through the closed blinds, and moves towards the couch. He continues speaking as he sits, placing himself beside the nearly unconscious man.

Jamie brings his hand to his face, prodding a tingling spot on his lower lip. Drawing his hand away again he finds a smudge of blood on his finger. He’s bit himself. He winces at the thought of such a noticeable injury and sucks his lip into his mouth, nipping it between his teeth and toying with the wound with his tongue.

“What’s with you today, man?” Kip directs his eyes at Jamie as he leans forward to grab a glass pipe, decorated with purple pot-leaves. “Get your ass in here, sit down.”

Of the five, Kip is the newest. His obnoxious personality is overpowered by his ability to acquire good weed, so the others tolerate him. Plus, he always seems to have a wad of cash and a willingness to overpay for a couch to crash on for a few nights.

Crossing the remnants of the ancient, brown shag carpet, Jamie follows his friend’s advice, entering the smoky haze of the living room. He tries to slow his breathing, avoiding any unnecessary air intake as he takes the empty spot beside Kip, sinking into the yellowed floral pattern. Most of the furniture in the house are survivors from the 70’s. In their prime, they had been wondrous pieces, but today they are humbled by over thirty years worth of wounds inflicted upon them by old pets, children and family dinners around the T.V.

They were probably pulled from a dumpster.

“Here, man,” Kip disrupts Jamie’s ponderings, holding the glass pipe towards him. “Clear your mind, calm down a bit.”

Jamie stares at the pipe. His life thus far has been drug-free. Nothing beyond pain-killers and nicotine has ever entered his body – with the one exception of his youth when his babysitter thought it would be entertaining to get a three-year-old drunk off Vodka. Normally, he would refuse instantly, but something about the offer at this moment seems unnaturally tempting.

Before he can respond, however, the man farthest away on the love-seat speaks up against it.

“Don’t give him that shit,” he demands.

Without pulling his offer away, Kip turns to find all eyes upon him. The force behind the demand has drawn all attention to the subject at hand. He notes the man on the floor shaking his head, warning him to abide y what he is told.

“It’s his choice,” Kip responds. “He’ll take it if he wants, or leave it.”

“I don’t-” Jamie begins to protest, only to be cut off by the man on the loveseat.

“Don’t – give him – that – shit” he repeats, his words slow and deliberate, more threatening than they had been before. He leans back into his seat, his hand sliding up under his shirt to the waist of his jeans.

“Dude, it’s just-“

“I don’t care what the fuck it is!” He screams, and the room falls silent in anticipation; even the T.V. seems to make no noise. All focus, all existence rests upon the man, his hand, and what’s under his shirt.

“Mark!” Jamie speaks up. His slow, shallow breathing has become more ragged with fear, more rapid. “Mark, you know I don’t do drugs.” His eyes are locked upon the hem of the man’s shirt, trying to see through it, hoping there is nothing there beyond an empty threat. “You know I’ll just say ‘no.”

“That don’t matter!” Mark yells, “One day, man, you’re gunna be real fucked up or sumthin, and you’re gunna say ‘yes,’ and that’s all it takes! Then you’re fucked for life! You’re the only one here with any chance, man. You’re the only one who can do sumthin! You’re the only one, man. The only one!”

The sudden onslaught of exertion seems to take its toll upon the man. He slumps as he is yelling, exhaustion overtaking him as his adrenaline rushes, his blood pumping the drugs through his system at an accelerated rate. His head rolls back, his speech trailing off into silence as he falls unconscious.

After a moment of stillness the room breaths a collective sigh of relief. Jamie moves, squeezing past Kip and the other two to check on Mark. He rests his hand in front of Mark’s mouth, holding it there for several seconds before checking his pulse.

“He alright?” Kip eventually asks. Jamie nods in response before crossing the room and retrieving his jacket.

“Yeah.” He slings his jacket over his shoulders, sliding his arms into the sleeves as it comes down upon him. “He’s breathing, anyway. Keep an eye on him.” As he speaks, he moves towards the front door. His desire to leave is clearly evident on his face, and in the urgency of his steps. The occupants of the room begin to fall back into their previous actions, the events of moments earlier passing from their minds as if it were some bad TV show. Only Kip remains standing, watching Jamie as he moves; having just arrived before using the restroom, he’s had no time to ingest as much as the others.

 “Look,” Jamie says, stopping a step from the door and turning to face Kip. “I understand you’ve only been here a few months and that I am suddenly a new face with more authority, but I do have history here. Part of that history is with Mark, and as far as he’s concerned, I’m practically his little brother because of it. Understand that he is rather protective and if you fuck with me, he’ll fuck with you, so if he says not to give me something, don’t fucking give it to me. Don’t even offer it to me. You’ll live a happier life here if you abide by that. Alright?”

Kip stares at the younger man for a long moment, before raising his arms out to his side as if to shrug off the situation. “Yeah. Cool, man.” He finally says, before turning away. Jamie reaches out, gripping the knob and pulling the door open.

“Oh, um!” Kip blurts out hurriedly, raising his right hand towards Jamie, signaling him to wait. His left hand pinches at the bridge of his nose, a sign that – as Jamie has learned – he is trying to remember something of importance. His eyes spring open as he recalls his duties and he jerks his head back towards Jamie. “Where you stayin’ tonight?”

The question brings a frown to Jamie’s face. It is a habit of Mark’s to always ask before they part. Jamie hates the question, hates either having to lie, or admit he has an issue he can’t take care of on his own; his reason for leaving while Mark is unconscious. The fact that Kip, of all people, is the one who asks now is only adding further insult to the situation.

“I don’t know, yet,” Jamie answers, just loud enough so that Kip can hear that he has answered, but not to understand what is said. It seems to work, as Kip nods, says ‘alright,’ and turns back to his project. Without another word, Jamie exits the small trailer, stepping out into the evening sunlight.

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