After a relationship break-up 9 1/2 or so years ago, I sank deep. Lost track of everything, I was a mess. Even lost track of writing. But there came a point when what's important periscoped up out of my personal hell; a personal hell most of us have experienced in our own, special, self-annihilating way. I slowly started writing short stories again. Sure, they were all constructed around my shattered mindset at that time, but not in always expected ways. This one, though, the second story--a flash piece, as noted in the title--was along the lines one would expect after going through the mental and physical grinder. This one bites hard. I wrote a lot more about it in another blog post. So, without further adieu...
by John Claude Smith
He feels nothing: numb, empty…
He resorts to cutting himself as an exercise in sensation, in trying to feel something at a time when he feels nothing.
But even that does not break through.
He still feels nothing.
Acquiring a scalpel was easy, Tammy works at the clinic. She brought one to him without questions. He took it from her two days ago and closed the door before she had the opportunity to invite herself in or intrude in any other way.
He did not care about how rude it came off.
He does not care about much of anything.
But her. Alicia. The woman he loves.
The woman who left him.
(How could she leave me? How could she give up on us? The thoughts roll by in his head like a never ending freight train, its self-destructive cargo branded in torturous repetition.)
He places the scalpel against his naked chest, pressing hard. The blade digs deep, blood streaming over his abdomen.
He grunts from the effort as he pulls the blade down. The incision is deep, opening his insides to the world.
It opens him, but will require the effort of his bare hands to continue the process.
Still, he is numb.
He sets the scalpel down and thrusts his fingers into the fresh wound. Pulling with supreme effort, he pries his chest wide open. Muscles and bones are wrenched from their usual homes, tearing and breaking.
He stops, sucks in a weary breath, and gazes into the moist, red cavity.
He jostles things, moves them about, rearranging the internal in ways that give him access to his goal.
The thick muscle’s rhythm is consistent, even though this more extreme exercise would normally render one dead.
He feels dead inside already.
He reaches in with both hands, scalpel severing arteries, clean cuts that lack precision yet serve their purpose. Within minutes, he holds the beating heart in his hands.
Still, he feels nothing.
Well, what is the point of it all, then?
(He remembers how she used to put her hand on his chest, palm down, feeling the love, their bond, sensing the rightness of it all, staring intensely into each other’s eyes—enraptured--we are one…and her cherishing it, him as well, so close, so close…“Let me drown in you,” she would say, and he would plead, “Let’s drown in us, please”…and both of them meaning it, unconditionally, without fear because this is what people live for in the first place!)
(Drowning now: drowning, flailing, sinking…)
He walks calmly to the car and starts it up, pulling out of the parking lot. The night is deep and uncaring. Nobody notices because at least other people can sleep.
He hasn’t slept in weeks.
He drives to where she lives. Sitting in the car, he stares at the apartment where she rents a room.
He scribbles a note on a piece of paper and exits the car.
He places the still beating heart at the foot of the door with the note.
No reason to knock or ring the doorbell; let her sleep. Let them all sleep.
Maybe someday he will sleep again as well…He rereads the note: Since you own my heart, you might as well have it.
Unhappy and exhausted, he leaves, his head still reeling as the freight train rolls by.
Perhaps this gesture will help her to understand.
Perhaps she will just scream.
Numb, he drives alone into the deep and uncaring night…
Well, writing got me through that, as it does through so much more. Love does, too, after all is said and done and perhaps makes the pain make sense. Well, not sure about that. but...