Chapter Seven: Writing on the Walls
“Something has to change, undeniable dilemma
Boredom’s not a burden anyone should bear
Constant over stimulation numbs me
But I would not want you any other way
It’s not enough, I need more
Nothing seems to satisfy
I don’t want it. I just need it.
To feel, to breathe, to know I’m alive…”
Tool . Stinkfist
Lightning flashed outside, and Josh sat on a barstool with his guitar in hand. He hadn’t played in months, and he was kicking himself for it. His fingers had gone stiff, and his mind limp, he knew better than to let such a thing happen. He cracked his neck and closed his eyes, trying to feel the music, feel the frets, feel the rhythm, feel anything other than the stress in his hand. Shaking his head, he grumbled something unintelligible to himself, and set the guitar down in the rack, marveling at its beauty - a 1960, Gibson Les Paul reissue, with the flat neck, not the baseball bat that they had now gone to; no, this was the best year for the Les Paul. Sighing with apprehension, he turned off the Marshall half-stack and lit a cigarette.
He had been sitting there for two hours, and had gone through nearly half a pack. Stress didn’t suit him well. He could handle the big shit, the shit that would have people in shambles, but minor things, tore him apart. He got the complex from his mother, a sullen drunk, which was funny to him, because she had no tolerance for alcohol. He got her inability to handle stress and not her cello playing hands. Bitch. Luckily, though, he also got a bit of her brain, and a bit of his fathers, which came in handy, to a degree. He also got his dad’s tolerance for alcohol, short fuse, and combustible temper.
“Such is life.” He said, thinking about his lineage as he headed up the stairs from the storage unit in their apartment building, hearing footsteps descending at a quick pace. Confused, his watch read half past ten PM, no one should be rushing anywhere this late. He leaned back against the wall, twirling his pick between his fingers and waited, not wanting to create an avalanche.
And down the stairs came she; violet baby-doll t-shirt and wide legged jeans, her black Van’s pounding the stairs.
“Hey Beth, where’re you heading?” he asked as their eyes met.
“David’s, something’s wrong, I don’t know what.” She answered, out of breath.
“Alright, I’ll grab my keys and meet you there, and from there I’ll head to work. I won’t have a lot of time, but some. What was he acting like?”
“I don’t know, we just got a dead call, and his number was on the caller ID.”
“Okay. I’ll see you there, hun.” He leaned in, kissing her softly as she bounded the rest of the way down the stairs and to her car, and the engine rolled over as he reached the door from the garage to the apartments, tossing the cigarette butt down the flight of stairs, watching as it landed on the platform where he had stopped to greet her.
The storm had reached a cease-fire before he pulled up into the parking lot of David’s apartment, next to Beth’s car. Tearing the keys out of the ignition and slamming the door into her car, he rushed up to the front entrance, watching his car shake out of the corner of his eye.
Hearing the click-click of the door unlocking a few seconds after he pushed the buzzer, he headed up towards David’s apartment and knocked on the door. It creaked open, and Beth‘s framed face looked panicked and distraught, the colour having drained and her cheeks flushed. Her eyes darted around, pulling Josh inside and returning to the ashtray. With presence of mind, Josh closed the door and pulled the chain across the distance, and turning the half-turn of the deadbolt. Taking a glance about the apartment, he noticed David propped on the couch, the phone hanging from the table, the receiver on the floor. His nose oozed blood, covering the lower part of his face and upper torso in his precious life-force.
“Okay, just what the fuck is going on?” Josh asked, face turning beet red, looking down at the coffee-table in front of the couch. Stretched out across most of the length was a sea of white lines, and a single-edged razorblade. Three dusty patches were all that was left of what David had taken up into his nose, and the rest of a half-gram already cut. Josh sighed painfully, “We could just let the dipfuck die. It’d be what he deserved for being such a goddamned retard.” He spat upon David’s chest, kicking the table over, watching as the cocaine slid down seamlessly, landing in small piles in the carpet.
“You’re a fucking cold-hearted prick, Josh.” Beth recoiled on him, flames leaping up in her eyes.
“No, I have common fucking sense, Beth. That’s all. It’s Darwinism, in the most obvious of instances. He’s moronic enough to put him in such a situation; now he either, A] helps himself or B] dies. And from the looks of things, B looks like the most likely option.”
“But he saved your ass, remember? When you were an imbecile.”
“Ah Ha! You are right, but what’s makes this different is that he saw me and what I did so many years ago and, truth be told – he shouldn’t have helped me. That was his choice, and this is mine.” He growled, removing his Zippo and pack of cigarettes from the breast pocket of his work-shirt.
He didn’t see it, but he felt it; the sting from her palm and the blood rushing to the surface in a deep imprint of her open hand, the cigarette flying from his mouth and landing silently onto the carpet, singing a few strands before he picked it up, taking the first real hit.
“Fuck you then, Josh. Get out of here if you aren’t going to help him!”
“Fine!” he said, shaking his head as he stormed out of the apartment, slamming the door behind him. “There’s no fucking excuse for such bullshit. He’s an idiot, he deserves to die. Plain and fucking simple. Jesus Christ!” he muttered to himself as he flew down the steps, through the outer door and to his car. Again, his door slammed into hers, this time intentional, and before the song even began on the CD, he was already in reverse and gunning the engine through the small strip of parking lot.
Pulling out of the complex and heading right, he shot a glance up towards the window and saw her nursing their fallen friend, trying to bring him back to coherency.
The time clock rolled over to one o’clock as he pried his eyes back open and readjusted his eyes to wanting to be awake. He sat there, staring out into the lobby, at the cold steel door barricading him from the outside, and the blank TV reflected the soft glow of the bulbs. It was a very lonely place to be, but one AM was nothing, the worst was three, when everyone in the universe, usually excepting him was fast asleep, and tucked away from the howling of the night. All in all, though, he liked his job, he just hated the utter solitude. His only distraction was the occasional visitor and people he occasionally talked to online, his fellow insomniacs, but usually, at three in the morning, they weren’t even around.
Somewhere, something began to vibrate and chirp; it took him a second to realize that it was his cell phone. Looking at the caller ID and not recognizing the number, he almost clicked busy before he realized that no bill collector would be calling at such an hour, unless they had finally gotten wise and turned their shop into a 24 hour business. He laughed at the thought and answered the phone.
“Hello?” he asked, leaning back in the comfortable Ikea and closing his eyes.
“This is he. Who is this?”
“Kathryn. What’re you up to?”
“Oh, hey. Working on killing seven more hours, how about you?”
“I can’t get a hold of David, and I figured you were the only one still awake on a weeknight.” Her laugh was soft, unintentional.
“I’m always awake.”
“Anything exciting going on over there?”
“Not really, just the same shit with a different spin, how about you?”
“Yeah, would you mind some company?” he could detect the hint of loneliness and almost-fear in her voice.
“Of course, are you offering?”
“Yeah. I’ll be there in about twenty, is that okay?”
“Go right ahead, I’ve got something to tell you.”
“David, but I don’t want to tell you on the phone, I want it to be in person.”
“Oh…” Her heart dropped into her stomach, and he could hear it rattling around, he had to recover it.
“Hey, it isn’t about the two of you. It’s about him, and his… stupidity.” He mumbled the last word, feeling the bile dripping down his throat.
“Okay, well… hold your thoughts, I’ll be there shortly.”
They clarified the address, and the call was disconnected. On a night where was sure Beth would like to see him castrated, he was glad to have a friend that wasn’t suffering an overdose. Coughing, he leaned further back in the chair and slipped his phone into the pocket where his cigarettes had been, questions swirling around inside his head concerning his impending guest. They had yet to ever really talk at any great length, but he had a feeling they’d get along well, considering some of the books he had seen her carrying in her purse: Nietzsche, Crowley, Leary, LaVey, McKenna, and most notably in his opinion, the Bill Hicks biography, American Scream. It was a rare thing to find a fan of Hicks, especially in such a po-dunk, piss-ant town. How he loved the hyphenated words when describing his hometown. Backwoods or redneck or degenerate could’ve worked, but he had an affinity for hyphens. They threw the trailer-trash for a loop when he wrote something out for them. He didn’t get it, and didn’t bother to question, because in his mind, if he figured out how their minds worked, he’d become one of them. Juvenile, sure… but that was his opinion on the matter.
The sun was peeking over the horizon with its golden hued gaze, and he had told her about the events that had transpired before he had came in, and that he wasn’t keen on the idea of returning home while Beth wanted to brutally dismember him for his words and actions. He told her of David’s misadventure with the coke, and got a teary-eyed response, and finally, before she left, they had decided, upon her suggestion, that he would crash at her apartment. The reasoning was two-fold; one, so that she would not be alone after hearing such information, and two, that Beth would have time to cool off. Such a thing as the latter may seem minor to most, but in this situation, it was far from it, the fire that leapt from her eyes could very well signal their end. The relationship was wonderful, but volatile. There was no explanation for most of their blow ups, but they occurred, and one day, he knew that there would be a final explosion. It was only inevitable.
Watching her leave as the first person came down to check out, he remembered why he stared at her so avidly the night he pointed her out to David – she was perfectly built, from her height, to her hips, to her face; there was not a single flaw he could find, just a natural, simple beauty.
After the lady in room 215 left, he shrugged off the thought, and started packing up his laptop and CD’s, ready for his relief to come.