The universe roots for my displeasure.
It is taking constant heed of my happiness and promptly administering the right medicine to correct such feelings.
I have proof. My father died recently. See? The one person I cared about in this shitty world, got lung cancer and passed away. Quite frankly it surprised me, at 70 years old, smoking most of his life, it hadn’t got him yet. So, I didn’t see it coming. Jokes on me. Universe one, me zero.
You would think it ends there but it doesn’t and there’s so much to count. Let’s back up a bit.
My first crush spit in my face. Turns out he was kind of racist. He didn’t like when I confessed my love to him. This is how I learned to hide my feelings and what the color of my skin meant.
I lost both my brothers. One died over seas. Land mine they said, shrapnel got him. The other was lost to gang violence. No, he wasn’t in a gang, but a gang mistook him for someone else. Our neighborhood was rough. So rough, my first pet, a puppy I named Droopy, was stolen right out our yard. I never saw him again. Universe five, to zero.
That was just a bit a background, so you know I’m not completely full of shit. Now I’m an adult and you would think it gets better but it doesn’t. “More money, more problems” as they say.
My job is shitty. They give me duties outside of my description and don’t compensate me fairly. My housemates are assholes and I don’t love my girlfriend. She’s fake. But hey, being in a relationship is normal right?
My mother wants to know when I’ll stop fucking girls and when I’ll give her a grand kid. I hate kids. Can’t stand them. My neighbor has three of the little beasts and they scream well into the evening. That’s two more points to House Cosmos.
Anyhow, my doom draws near. I can feel it. This heavy weight on my shoulders and the darkness in my mind.
Driving on the 405, I got unlucky one day. Just a coincidence? Not really. Cosmic intervention at its best. This freeway goes 80 to 0 real quick. That’s how the asshole in the Honda Accord crashed in the back of me. The cosmos laughs and you know what? I laugh with it!!
I’m starting to think that maybe I like this. Maybe I enjoy the despair brought upon me? This pain must be my pleasure and if it is, how else would I be punished? What more could the universe do? I’m laughing my ass off! Should I get on my knees and beg for more?
Instead, I called my girlfriend. No answer. It’s cool. I was only suffering and I didn’t want to think of how I going to pay for repairs with a thousand-dollar deduction. So, I drove to my best friend’s house, Dave, because I needed to vent about my fucked-up bumper. That’s how I found out my girl was at his place.
He opens the door, shirtless, pale chest covered with hair. And why did it smell like sex? I know what sex smells like. Did I even care? My girlfriend sat on the couch. Universe nine, me zero.
“Uhh…what happened to your car?” Dave asked.
Kat looked uncomfortable. I was being a nuisance, a bother to everyone around me again.
I told them both what happened. I don’t even care anymore. Maybe I’ll shove ice picks into my ears.
I left them as they called after me. They both looked guilty.
Do you believe me now? The universe is out to get my ass. I bet my case is still undetermined. But I’m sure I walk down the path of pain, believe me. I’m a herald of death and misery and boy does it like the company.
I drove to the river that runs right through town. A man-made, concrete one. Every time I see it, I imagine what it could have been a few thousand years ago. A natural beauty. Like the river, I am man-made; an abnormal construction sculpted by society, something that perhaps could have been beautiful in another time. We are both corrupt.
I park nearby. They always say not to go down into these sorts of places because the current can sweep you away, but maybe I want to die. Maybe I want it to sweep me away, cleanse me of the darkness that haunts my mind. I beg it to end it all and the Universe laughs at me.
So, I go down and don’t mind the curious eyes. I just want to walk the banks and contemplate my place. Cosmic Puppeteer, I want to make you a bet. I won’t die because who else will you torture? I’m sure I’m immortal now, though I know very well how it all ends. I saw it some time ago in my mind, a very vivid vision of myself on my couch with a gun to my head.
I don’t know if I pull the trigger. It could have been a dream, perhaps a memory of another life or a distant premonition.
The water below me looks like watery sludge and stinks to high hell. The waters seem calm but I know they hide a dark and treacherous mouth ready to swallow me. I step onto the bank of the river and hear a shout.
“Hey! You okay down there?”
I look up and see a man. He’s young, dark eyes and dark hair, dressed in sweats and a tank top.
“Yeah, I’m cool.” But I’m lying, aren’t I?
“You need some help?” he asked.
I need tons of fucking help but I don’t say a word. I’m immortal and this isn’t going to kill me. I clench my fists. I need to come to grips with this. I close my eyes. It will be quick–I think.
I have no idea what it’ll be like but I jump in anyhow. Damn. It was cold as balls and smelled like shit. Now that shit water is rushing over me and trying to consume me. It’s way deeper than I thought and I didn’t take a good breath before jumping. I struggled because I didn’t want the very last memory of life to be the taste of shit water. I had to distract myself.
It burned and I cursed the universe for goading me. It was such a prick. Didn’t it have others it could pick on?
How stupid everything is. Can I be reborn with a better hand? Or are my actions worthy for more punishment? I don’t need this or anyone else. My mother says I’m worthless. She treats me like an ATM and takes me for granted. I also haven’t accomplished shit. I wanted to be somebody one day but I woke up, looked in the mirror, and all I saw was a failure. Let’s keep going; I only have one friend, Dave, and he’s fucking my girlfriend. I don’t blame them, I suck. Is it over yet?
Something pulled me by my shirt. A hand. Whoever it is, they’re strong as hell because they pull me from the water and drag my sorry ass back onto the bank with several bystanders looking over the guard railing.
I coughed and spat shit water out my mouth. Yum.
I blinked, eyes burning and blurry. It was the man in the sweats and tank.
“Please don’t call the cops,” I said to my savior.
He had a kind face, strong jaw and dark blue eyes; but he looked so worried. No one ever worried about me, so what is this bullshit? Don’t get cocky cause you saved me. It wasn’t even you really. I made a bet with the universe. Score one against the Cosmos. I win the round.
“You need to go to the hospital,” he said. “You might have swallowed water.”
Yeah, it sucked.
“I’m fine. I slipped.”
He gave me a look that told me how much he believed that.
“No, really, don’t call the cops,” I said. “I can’t handle whatever fine they’re about to stick me with.”
“Well I’m sure they are on the way. Someone probably called them. Plus, I can’t just let you go by yourself….” This stranger seemed to think. “At least come to my place to shower and calm down. I’m sure I have some clothes that will fit you. I don’t live far.”
This dude could have been a murderer but did I really care at this point? Being murdered would have been the most exciting bit of my uninteresting life. So, I nodded. I didn’t even know his name, but he helped me up and we got back onto the street, people staring and hounding me with questions and looks.
We got into my car, because apparently, he was on an evening jog and didn’t drive here. Healthy mother fucker.
I handed him the keys and he drove.
“What’s your name? Or should I call you John Doe?” I asked.
“You aren’t far off. I got a basic bitch name,” he said. “It’s Matt.”
“Short for Matthew?”
“No, just Matt. See? Basic,” he said, chuckling. “And yours?”
I shrugged. “Also basic. It’s Alex.”
He laughed and my lips twitched. I would not smile. If I did, we’d crashed into a pole and both die. That’s how the universe worked. I couldn’t burden this lovely man.
We got to his place and it was a nice one bedroom. How did people afford these places? What was I doing wrong with my life?
“No offense but you smell,” Matt said.
“Not quite.” He laughed again, went to a cupboard and handed me a towel.
“Bathroom is down the hall, first door.”
“Don’t you need to shower too?” I asked.
“I’ll go next.”
I followed his directions. I entered the bathroom but didn’t lock the door. I stared at the tub and wondered if I should draw a bath to drown in.
No, that would be rude. He didn’t need a corpse in his bathroom. That’s all I was though, a walking corpse. This beating heart, red blood, and warmth were nothing but a guise. The undead truly existed and I was among their ranks.
I turned on the shower, stripped and stood under the hot water, soaking myself. It felt good. Yeah, this was something I would have definitely missed. I washed my hair. It was curly and I hated it.
When I was done, I wrapped myself up and carried my wet clothes out. Matt was in the living room, standing in a pair of fresh clothes. He came to me and held out his hands.
“I’ll throw your clothes in the washer and dryer. I left a pair of dry clothes on the bed”
I used his room to change. When I came out, I could hear the washing machine downstairs going.
“That’s a coin washer, right? How much?”
“Don’t worry about it.”
I didn’t need charity.
“Really,” he said.
What was he even doing with a fuck up like me? Even he probably didn’t know. I was contagious. Any long with me and the universe would start leeching off of him as well.
Matt sat on the couch.
“You…want to watch TV?”
“Not really,” I said, dressed in an over-sized shirt and tight biking shorts. Silence reigned. “Aren’t you gonna ask me?”
Matt shook his head. “No. You have your reasons.”
“Then why save me?”
He shrugged. “Not sure myself. I just wanted to.”
What a dork. He could have died himself.
“Thanks,” I said. “But I had a plan.”
“Yeah. A plan to drown. So, you see, you messed it up.”
“Forgive me,” he said, drawing a cackle from me. I coughed. My lungs hurt.
“You need to see a doctor,” Matt said.
“Tomorrow. I swear.”
“You have insurance?”
“Can I really trust you to do that?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “Why do you care?”
“Is it that unusual?”
“A bit,” I said. “Look at me. I bet I look like a wet mop.”
“You look fine.”
“Or a waterlogged buffalo.”
“You are not a buffalo.”
“How do you know? I could be a buffalo in disguise.”
Matt snorted. “I’m glad I saved you.”
It was my turn to laugh. “Then why am I so fucking depressed?”
He shrugged. “Maybe it’s because you feel more than normal people.”
“Well, I know for sure I’m abnormal. A damn anomaly the universe is trying to erase.”
I didn’t mean to say that aloud but whatever. He had seen the worse of me, this stranger.
“What needs fixing?” he asked.
“Everything. I need a new life.”
He smiled. “Well, I think you just got one. Reborn from the river.”
“Baptized in shit water to be born anew,” I said.
Matt’s eyes widened then he laughed at my crude joke and I chuckled too. Damn, how dare he be so good natured. His kindness scared me. I had only pain to give.
“Do you have a friend you can call?” he asked.
I shook my head. “He’s with my girlfriend. I guess they’re together now.”
Matt frowned. “Wrecked car and an affair? I underestimated the cards you were dealt.”
He made me smile. Did he really understand my predicament?
“So, you can see I’m short on good friends and healthy advice,” I said.
He nodded. “I know you don’t know me but if you want, you can stay here and we can go to the hospital together.”
“Why? What do you want?”
He looked surprised. “Nothing. I just understand. It’s hard.”
I felt my eyes burn. I just nodded. Damnit, please be strong. But I wasn’t strong. I just proved that. I was weak and breaking down. I couldn’t hide my tears. Matt didn’t say a word. We sat in silence for a moment, until I broke it.
“If you don’t mind…then I don’t mind staying for a bit…”
He gave me a small smile. “Good, cause I’m a great cook, Al.”
“What’s on the menu, Matthew?”
He laughed. “Tacos. Everyone loves tacos.”
I did love tacos.
“Which reminds me, I need to shower too,” he said. “Promise you won’t be gone when I come back?”
Could I promise that? I wondered, but nodded my head.
“Yeah, I’ll be right here.”