The Beast, Pt. 88 (Chapter 21b)

my mother wants me to go if she would just tell me just tell me instead of shouting and screaming maybe I would do it I’m just a kid I’m scared I don’t understand what she’s upset about she has to explain it to me but of course she doesn’t of course she can’t the things that she’s seen and done and been subjected to it’s amazing she’s as well-adjusted as she is and i’m just a kid I don’t know that yet so how do I know that how do I even know what well-adjusted means how am I five when I’m twenty-seven how am I ten when I’m eighteen how am I fifty-nine and holding her hand in the hospital what is this she’s crying not shouting or screaming just looking at me with wet eyes and holding me tight trying to hold me with arms that won’t encircle me anymore because I’m not a little boy I’m a grown man but she still holds me like I’m seventy-something and Jesus Christ humans were not meant to live this long we weren’t meant to see everything around us crumble and decay we were meant for something shorter and simpler eaten by a horse dead by sniffles not a hundred years of existential angst and that son of a bitch BURNED me look at this shit fucking split between a thousand timelines a thousand potentialities no wonder that son of a bitch’s teeth were falling out and his entire body oozing this shit you can’t control it not in a single dose you can only eighteen and graduating and my mother is crying but happy tears this time a smile she’s proud of me I want to tell her that these are the good times and it’ll all be okay in the end as okay as these things can ever be it’s a catch-22 or something nothing’s ever really okay in the end but then most things don’t matter so most things are but then nothing ever really ends and nothing’s really permanent either the universe will tear itself apart and isn’t that a pretty metaphor in the end we wind up isolated and cold and so distant that no two things can interact on another I am going to KILL that son of a bitch I am going to find him and I am going to beat him like a frat boy angry that he can’t drink his overpriced champagne this is a nightmare this is agony this is every mistake come back to haunt you all at once shitting your pants as a baby and failed tests as a kid and fumbling sexual mistakes as an adult and an old man wondering why he didn’t take better care of himself his liver and his kidneys and his lungs dissolving into soup within him this is the future Goddamnit somebody grow me some new organs okay okay calm down deep breath focus you’ve got a mission you’ve got a purpose and you

need

to

focus

the ride stops kind of and I’m back in the room which I guess is an improvement. okay. I can work with this. I’m grounded. mostly. deep breath. just got to find the

HERITTHETHINGTHEBITCHTHEMONSTER

lady in white. just got to think back when was the first time I saw her. it must have been

a may afternoon finals week I’m a kid seventeen lying on a bench in front of my school half-napping half-awake all trying to look cool just waiting doing nothing and here comes girl whose name I can’t remember and she’s got her friend with her. tall and thin willowy with a WHITE VEIL over her face and WHITE GLOVES on her hands and a WHITE DRESS covering her non-existent

that’s not right that’s not right at all that’s the wrong time that’s impossible in the present I’m choking across every present I’m choking focus focus focus

kissing behind a movie theater a child now not even in high school yet had to get our parents to drive us here and then leave so I could kiss WHITE LACE and run my clumsy grabby little fingers over WHITE SILK all nervous and excited and imagining my first

nonono that’s not right either that’s not right at all I remember it I remember it I was

having my first kiss in a classroom with the lady in white

having sex, awkward and fumbling and overly eager, soft moans and quick breaths coming come from beneath a delicate veil

confessing my love to pitiless white nothing

an old man holding hands with cold flesh in a soft glove

standing in the road watching her pull away slowly so slowly and there she is tall as a house and thin as Death and so white it’s like a great nothingness in my world and oh my god this is it

this time it will be different

this time I will run after her and say no stop I’m coming with you and I will come with her and we’ll be happy together

this time I’ll figure out how to make the stupid fiddly little details of my life and my job and my finances work when we’re settled and

this time we break up after a month and I am in an alien city with no job and no money and the lady in white is laughing laughing laughing

FUCK

I can fix this I can fix this I can fix this go back further save more money have a savings meet her move try again and we break up after two months time

NO

change the decisions skip everything that put me in debt clean slate tabula rasa but now I’m not at the party now I’m not the same person NOW WE NEVER MEET ARE YOU KIDDING ME WHAT IS THIS SHIT

no. no goddamnit. time is not an arrow, time is not immutable, time has no will of its own. I decide how my life unfolds I decide what end I will meet I decide where and how and with whom I will spend my life ME I DECIDE GODDAM

Hey, how’s it going. My name’s Chad Studlu (noitisntnotreallyyearsfromnowyoullbetoldyourenotachadandyouneverwillbenomatterhowhardyoutryshutupshutupshutup) Let me guess; you forgot it was a costume party, too, huh?

I’ve got to go, but I’ve had a really great time talking with you. Why don’t we trade info? We should grab coffee or a drink or something sometime.

We should do this again sometime.

Listen. I like you a lot. I want to see you again. Only you. What do you say?

I’m so lucky to have met you. So lucky.

It sounds like an amazing opportunity. You should at least try. Come on.

You got the job? That’s… that’s… Hey, that’s wonderful!

Her? No. Yeah, she’s getting married, but so what? She’s not going to be the one who got away. I promise. Not her.

I’ll come visit. We’ll find a way to make this work. It’s only another citystatecontinentworldohmygoditsgettingworseandworseeachtimetheuniverseisliterallymockingmeandim

sitting on my back porch drinking with my dog and I’m there and I’m not there and fuck me infinite possibilities worlds timelines and they all suck. realizations at this late hour, staring at my dog’s dark eyes, staring blankly at a vid screen gone dark, staring down the neck of a bottle, the barrel of a gun, infinite mes and all I can do is fucking stare and think that there is no objective meaning in the universe. none. nothing. don’t even kid yourself.

but that means you get to choose your own meaning. you get to fill the void inside you with whatever you think is most appropriate most beautiful.

thirteen seventeen twenty-five thirty thirty-eight forty-four all the way to my fucking death I wish so dearly that some day I’ll be able to fill it with a partner with children with a life that’s plain and ordinary and that I find some kind of impossibly simple fulfillment in.

I am sitting and petting my dog. I stop for just a second and he wedges his head between my arm and my leg. I pet him some more stop he does it again. I laugh and tell him I don’t know what you want from me.

asinine. idiotic. miserable fucking failure. he is showing me what he wants from me he is showing me in the most direct way imaginable that need inside of him and how best to help him satisfy it and in my stupidity I announce to the world that I don’t understand.

“I don’t know what you want from me.” Asinine. Idiotic.

He wanted what we all want: somebody who understands. Somebody who, when they don’t understand everything, still understands enough to put their arms around you and hold you while you tremble like a lost puppy crying out for its pack. Someone who will say, “I’ve got you,” and mean it. What else could he possibly have wanted from me but that?

What else could she possibly have wanted from me but that?

So much I tried to fix. So much I tried to do differently.

The sound of stifled sobbing sounds so much like stifled laughter I can’t even tell them apart.

Time stands still. There is only the one moment, and it goes on forever. This is my Heaven, my Hell, my life. Curled up against a wall, my knees clutched to my chest, crying like a child, oozing black slime from my eyes, my nose, my mouth. There is so much darkness inside me, how could I ever end up anything but alone? How could my companion ever be anything the faceless, nameless, voice of what might have been but never was? Before long, I’m not even crying. Just existing. The silence is complete and eternal.

“Why are you crying?”

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