Morning. The lights shines through my window. Somewhere, I hear a light piano tune being played. I think I recognize it. It’s coming through the wall between my room and the living room. It sounds like one of those classical songs you’d know when you hear it, but could never place the name of. But, it’s a bit more familiar than that. Like I’ve played it myself before. A long time ago, maybe, I think. Back when I still took piano lessons before my parents got divorced.
Yet, it was not the world’s morning. It was mine. My morning always started when I wanted it to. My “morning” could start in the world’s “evening”. So, it was my morning, and the world’s “noon”.
My phone is ringing. It’s her. My Angel. That’s her name, and don’t forget it. She always knows when to call, I think. I should answer it. But, I won’t. I’m mad at her. I think I know why, but I’ve probably lost interest at the argument at hand. But, I don’t budge on things like this. I don’t budge for anyone. So, I won’t answer the call. At least the first time through. I’ll decide which passive-aggressive tactic to use first before I let the call go through. If I answer and Angel is aggressive, I’ll be passive, I think. That way she feels bad and admits defeat. But, if I answer and my Angel is passive, I’ll be aggressive instead. Then she’ll be sad and when I back off to apologize, we’ll both forget the entire thing. That’s the game. Or the way I perceive it.
Another call. It’s not her. It’s my director. I answer this one.
Don’t be late tonight, she says.
We’re in crunch time, she says.
I’m counting on you.
I oblige, and then end the call. I’m stressed now. More or less stressed than usual, but stressed. I don’t like pressure. The play I’m in starts in three weeks. And I had yet to prove any worth in the rehearsal process that had been long, hard, and emotionally taxing. It’s not like I was in school or working. This was my work. And I was behind. How was I behind, I think. That’s never happened before.
I smile at the dead tone, though. As much as pressure stresses me, I also love a challenge. You’d better be on tonight, I tell myself.
And so the morning began.
In the kitchen there’s a note.
“CHORES: Dishes. Lawn. Evidence of at least THREE job applications.
Love you! Have a great day!
I grimaced at this. I was working. How could she not understand that? I didn’t need a job. I was Harrison Taylor, after all. I was a national champion in high school, had a beautiful girlfriend, and everybody in town knew my name. I don’t need a job. Who I am and what I do is enough. Everybody knows that. I don’t need school or minimum wage experience to be happy or (more importantly) successful! I have my art. That’s all that matters to me.
A text message:
Meet me at Chili’s soon?
Sorry we fought again last night..
Let me make it up to you?
Lunch and cuddle after?
I love you, baby…
My angel always cheers me up. She’s my real world. A light in my dark. Her words always flew as her wings gently into my ears, soothing my heart and soul with each syllable. There’s nothing more that I would ever want than her. And she knew that. She would never leave me. When I looked at her, my world began. My world starts where yours ends, I thought when I held her.
And I would whisper,
“My world stops without you..”
I forgot the fight. It didn’t matter and I knew that. I was glad that she offered lunch though, because my bank account was close to zero. Not that I cared. My mother would give me money once she realized how wrong she was about everything. She would fight with me when I got home about not doing anything she asked, but then when she saw my Angel with me all of that would change. She would be reminded of my success. And that success would bring her to finally apologize for the way she treated me. Soon I would be in her good spirits again. Just like always.
As I got out of the shower, I noticed another hair fall to the ground. I ignored this. Probably washing it too much, I think. I’m too perfect to lose my hair. I get dressed in slim pants and a revealing v-neck to show my slightly masculine chest, which is truly a little bit more fat than muscle, but I was too thin for someone to be able to tell that.
On the road, I get multiple calls. All from my mother. I ignore those as well. She must be on her period, I think. That’s the only reason she would be this way to me. I’ve done nothing wrong, I think. She’s clearly delusional. That’s why my father left her. He cheated because of her insanity. Who could have ever put up with the constant bitching, nagging, and over-concern that my mother lived by all the time? No one, I think. That’s why she’s alone. That’s why she needs me, her son, to stay at home and not go to school. She needs me more than I need her.
I arrive at my destination. There she is, I think. My Angel. She’s in a blue sun dress, with American Flag sunglasses on, and her bangs moved forward today. Her tan, mixed skin is radiant, while her white smile shows off the small dimples next to her cheeks. She’s more than just my Angel. She might as well be God’s.
You’re late, she says to me, as I grab her by the waist, before I bring her in to kiss me.
Looks like you’re paying then, she jokes.
Nuh-uh, you promised babe, I quip.
She smiles. That’s my girl.
Inside, we sit at our usual booth. The hostess recognized us because of how often we’ve come here. He knows us. I think I went to high school with him. I’m sure he hasn’t had nearly as much success as I have, I think. My mother doesn’t know what she’s talking about.
I remember her words gravely from a time before…
Are you sure you want to drop out of college?
Why don’t you stay?
You can’t do anything without a degree these days.
Why won’t you listen?
Aren’t you grateful for the opportunity you’ve been given?
If you want to come home, then you’ll have to get a job.
Doing plays isn’t enough! Don’t you get it?
I don’t understand where you’re coming from.
Who are you?
What have you done with my son?
Pass the ranch, my Angel says, interrupting my train of thought.
Something wrong, she asks.
I should be truthful with her, but my words are escaping me. I look at my phone. “Notification balance: Overdraft fee of $65.00”. Shit. My mother is on my account, too. She sees everything. It’s the only way I keep from paying other bank fees. She’ll be furious.
Nothing, I tell my Angel.
Just tired, I tell her.
Tired, she laughs.
How can you be tired, you slept nearly the whole day, she says.
It’s true. But, my stress level has gone through the roof now. How will I pay this off? She’s not going to give me that kind of money. And it’s just going to keep building up. I start to sweat. I’m nervous now. And I have a show tonight. My world is starting to become a problem.
She’s holding my hand now. I look up at her. She’s smiling at me. It’s going to be okay, she says, as she kisses my hand. I smile back at her. My world will be just fine. It’ll keep on spinning, for now.
My car breaks down. Why don’t I drive you home, she says. I just should have told her the truth, that it was out of gas and that I had no money to get any. But, I couldn’t admit that to my Angel. My Angel can’t know that I’m in trouble. I’m reminded of before now. When my Angel nearly left me. I had almost forgotten.
We’ll keep in touch, every night.
How is everything?
I miss you…
Why don’t you answer your phone more?
Have you been taking too many pills?
You’re addicted to those things ya know…
They make you different. You’re always different.
I met a friend. His name is Trevor.
It’s just a picture, what are you talking about?
We went as a GROUP, calm down.
Why don’t you call me like you used to?
How can you sleep all the time like this?
Are you making any friends?
I miss you…
I miss you…
He’s just a friend, I can’t believe you!
You would actually accuse me of that?!
I’m not a whore!
I think we need some time off..
Forget I said anything.
I miss you…
He kissed me, okay?
I miss you…
We were on a break!
I miss you…
This can only work if you come back.
Long distance just doesn’t work for us!
I miss you…
I’m glad you came back.
I can’t live without you..
I missed you.
The phone rings. It rings over and over. Aren’t you gonna answer that, she says. It’s just my mom, I say. We’re back at the house. I kiss her goodbye. Our two-year anniversary is soon, ya know, she says. I smile. I have a big surprise for you then, I tell her. She smiles back.
She’s gone now. And I’m home. And so is my mother. She’s in the living room when I get inside. On her smartphone. She has the bank app open. I suddenly her the piano tune again. It’s not coming from the television this time, though. It’s coming from my head. Claire de Lune, I think. That’s the name of the piece. I played it once at a recital. It has a big climax, with a roaring bridge and soft ending. All I can hear is the beginning though. Because that’s all I can remember. I’m stuck on the verse.
Where were you, she says. The fight begins. As it escalates, I begin to remember the rest of the piece. As the chords play loudly and crescendo, so does the world around me. A table is broken. By me. My mother is on the floor. By me. I’m crying, on my knees, begging for mercy. By me. I’m hugging her, as she screams, how could you, how could you, you hit me, how could you. There’s a knock at the door as I rise from the floor. There’s a man in a uniform with handcuffs and a frown. This man was my atom bomb. He was my destroyer of worlds.
The song has ended now, and so have I. I’m in the back of a police car. I’m not going to rehearsal tonight. I’m crying still. I can’t believe what I have done. And I think what I’ve done is somehow right. That somehow the song I played had some sort of significance, some sort of magical prose in its chorus that would change the way things are. But, all it had really done was destroy. Destroy, bury, and conquer. All in just a few minutes. The bridge had some promise, but the final chorus had struck a note so sour that it would ring in my ears for years to come. The sound of a push and fall that I would regret having played for the rest of my life. The song had been played. And, just as I had played it many years ago at that recital, I could not pick a different piece to play because it was undone. I was undone.
My thoughts scattered, I suddenly, horrified, realized what I had done. And what it could do in turn. My Angel, I thought. Oh God no, my Angel!
A scene ran in my head.
It was my play. Romeo and the Friar stood in the center.
I will be reunited with her, Romeo told the Friar.
No, Romeo, the Friar said.
You cannot force her to be with you now, for you are exiled, he said.
Exiled, like me I think.
But I love her, Romeo says.
I love my Angel, I think.
Love is not always enough, the Friar tells him.
Then what is, I think.
Women fall when there’s no strength in men, he says.
I’ve fallen, I think. My strength is gone.
Now my perspective and drive have shifted. I no longer care about the rehearsal, I think. I have to get out of here. I have to be with my Angel, I think. No matter what it takes.
I hate myself, I yell at the police officer.
Shut up, he says.
I wish I was dead, I say.
Say that again, he says.
You heard me. I want to die. When you put me in that jail cell I’m gonna figure out a way to kill myself right then and there. I have nothing left to live for.
He’s quiet again, at first.
Then, he calls his radio. He says some sort of code regarding my case.
Bring him here first and then to the hospital, the radio responder says.
He frowns. Maybe he knew what I was trying to do. Maybe he didn’t. Or maybe he didn’t care. Either way, it was a way out. The ride was long. My tears and rambling kept me company. You’d better shut up or I’ll shut you up myself, the officer said at one point. I didn’t care. I knew he wouldn’t taze me. I was the most interesting thing he’d had all day, he’d said so himself. Even in a moment of grief, my ego burned bright. My world wasn’t gone yet. Not all of it.
The cell was dimly lit. They put me in a holding cell, where killers and psychopaths usually went. I had my own bed, my own sink, and my own misery to sink it. My evening had begun.
The night was long. I may have only been in the cell for a few hours, but they were the longest of my whole life. At first, I didn’t understand that this was where I would potentially be staying. I thought there was a mistake. I pressed the intercom, which I didn’t realize broadcasted to the whole department at the front in the case of an emergency, to tell them that they had made a mistake. I didn’t belong here, I told them. You left me in here, I said. I needed to be out there in the open with them because I was normal, I said. They didn’t respond, until a black, female officer came by and told me that I was good where I was for the night unless they told me otherwise.
The warden eventually let me go. I must’ve been such a hassle that they just couldn’t take it anymore. $1000 bail was to be paid once I got back from the hospital, the warden told me. And don’t ever talk to your mother that way again, she finished.
Free Bird by Lynrd Skynrd played on my way out. I’m not kidding. The officer that took me was nicer than the others. Were gonna get you help, she told me. I ignored this, but I internally took it to heart. Could there, was there, is there, really something wrong with me? Was I wrong? What did I do? What had I really done that day?
I walked into the ER handcuffed. An image that I wouldn’t forget. When you usually walk into the hospital, you’re greeted warmly and smiled at by those when you walk in. Never before had I walked into an emergency with looks of fear and anger pointed at me by others. I’m a monster, I think. What have I become, I think.
They can’t take my blood. Perhaps I’m too nervous and upset that my blood flow just isn’t as smooth as it usually is. It takes them six tries and three different nurses to prick a drop of blood out of me. And even then it takes awhile for them to get enough for a test that I don’t truly understand the purpose of at the moment. We need to see if you’re on anything, they tell me finally. Shit, I think. When they realize I’m sober they’ll truly think I’m crazy.
You can call someone if you want, they tell me. I jump. I begin to realize that my Angel must’ve heard what happened to me. I call. Nothing. It’s 2 AM. She must be asleep. I don’t sleep that night. I can’t. I’m too worried about my world collapsing in on me. Too tense to even get a wink of real shut eye.
In the morning, I get my phone. It’s barely charged. I still haven’t talked to my Angel. I get an abundance of text messages.
What did you do, she says.
What’s going on?
Oh. My. God.
WHAT DID YOU DO
I’m so scared…
People have your mug shot at school…
Really? You smiled in it? Typical…
I can’t believe you!
Please just respond…
I miss you…
I miss you…
I miss you…
The doctor comes in. He’s convinced that I’ll be out by tomorrow morning, once I explain that my suicidal “thoughts” were just impulsive. That I wasn’t really insane. There was no way. He leaves, saying to calm down. “Everything is gonna be okay”. That’s what they always tell you. Even if they don’t believe it.
My phone rings. It’s her.
Yes, I’m fine.
I explain everything to her.
How did people get my mug shot?
Don’t they have anything better to do?
….what do you mean?
I’m sorry, okay.
Can you...can you come by?
I mean, I’m sure my Mom will visit soon and clear everything up, but still…
She hasn’t called you back?
I don’t know how long my phone is going to stay on.
Text me while you can, okay?
I’m...I’m so sorry.
I miss you, too…
I love you.
I spend the whole day unable to rest without restless thoughts. I haven’t even responded to my director. That is completely out of my mind now. Now all I can think about is my Angel. I have to keep her. I have to hold her. Forever. Nothing can separate us. Not even this.
My phone rings again. Angel? No. It’s not her. It’s my mother. The one who helped play the song. Surely she’s called to apologize.
Hello, I say.
Hi, Harrison, she says.
She sounds strange. Something isn’t right.
How are you, I ask.
She doesn’t respond.
I’m sorry about what happened, I tell her.
That’s not enough, she says.
What, I say, in disbelief.
I’ve packed your things. The hospital called. They’re going to send you somewhere for awhile, she says.
What are you talking about, I say.
The doctor said I’ll be out in the morning.
That’s before I called, she says.
And told them about the pills from last December.
And the violence.
And the manipulation.
And the lies.
You can’t keep up with this, Harrison.
You need help.
I’m done facilitating this situation, she finishes.
How could you do this to me, I exclaim in anger, causing a nurse to start walking briskly to my room.
You’ve ruined me, I yell at her.
I’ll never forgive you for this, you bitch!
She’s quiet, just as the nurse comes in and tells me to end the conversation and to give her the phone immediately.
Goodbye, Harrison. I wish you the best of luck, I do.
She hangs up.
I can’t believe my ears. I drop to the floor in tears as the nurse takes away my cell phone. They offer me anxiety medicine in the form of an injection. They say it’ll help me sleep. I reject it. I won’t take it until I see my Angel, I tell them. The hours without sleep go longer. I pace the room back and forth, then ball myself up on the bed and cry, until I get back up again from the anxiety and start pacing again. I repeat this process for a long time. I don’t know what time it is. It could have been days that I was there. I wouldn’t have known. This emotion felt endless.
Then, there she was. Standing before me. My Angel. In black. All black.
I dressed this way today because I was grieving, she tells me.
Then I hold her for a long time. She was what I was waiting for. All my worries have gone away now that I have her. As long as I have my Angel, everything is safe. I’m safe. Everything really will be okay with my Angel there.
Your friends were the ones who found the mug shot, she tells me .
They sent it all over the school. They thought it would be funny.
They thought the whole thing was funny.
Did you think it was funny, she asks me.
I shake my head in disagreement. It’s funny how when your whole world falls apart that you find out who your real friends are. When you become a public enemy, you become everyone’s enemy. It’s time like these that you find out that those who claim to be your friend will quickly do as Peter did to Christ and deny you, only they will do it for a lifetime as long as your name is questioned.
I spend my evening with her. We watch cartoons while she holds my hand. You’re cold, she comments. You’re shaking, she says. I can see the worried look in her eyes. She knows that I might leave soon. And that it might not be my choice.
A new police officer enters the room. She tells us about where I’ll be going. And more importantly, she tells us that I’ll be leaving now. She pulls out a pair of handcuffs. I stop her and beg her to let me say goodbye to my beloved before having to go. She grants us this time and leaves briefly.
She’s crying now.
How long will you be gone, she asks.
I don’t know.
When can I talk to you next, she asks.
I don’t know.
Now we’re both quiet. We’re in each others arms, crying tears that I’ll never forget feeling on each other’s cheeks. These kinds of tears are only for the goodbyes we’re unsure of. Like a soldier going off to war. Even though you know they might come back, the idea of war never leaves you.
Soon, I’m in the back of a police van. I have my phone again. I hide it in my pocket before the officer can see. I’m cuffed to the seat in a small black box. I feel like an animal in a cage. How long will it be, I ask. I get no answer. The officer simply turns on the radio full blast to country music and puts a divider between the box and the driver’s seat so I can no longer see her.
I get out my phone. Low battery, it says. I don’t have much time.
Hi, I say.
Hey, she says.
I don’t have much battery, so bare with me, I say.
Okay, she says.
I love you. Don’t forget that. There’s nothing that I’ve ever wanted more in this world than you. My world is you. You’re my Angel. Got it?
Okay. I love you too. I miss you.
I miss you, too…
You’ll be back soon, right?
Of course, I say.
You’ll always love me, she asks.
Always, I say.
The phone dies. From outside the small window I have in the van, I see the sun rising. Somewhere, today, an Angel in a blue sun dress meets up with a handsome young man. They kiss, embrace, and become. She is smiling. He is smiling. She knows he’ll never let her down. She knows that she is his world. Perhaps I am that man and perhaps I’m not. As I lay down in the back of my circumstance, the sun hits its peak and the day is new. Morning.
But it is not mine.