Silas’ voice always held palpable violence, “Let me finish. Let me finish,” he began, trying to compose himself, “you’re not alone in your suffering. That’s a simple fact. Now, let’s say you decided to ‘end it’; you would have committed a grievous error, simply because you felt
your pain to be an island…”
“You said precisely, ‘end it if you must. I won’t stop you. It is your right, sir.’ How can you defend such a response?”
“For lack of a better explanation, you were ‘out of sorts.’ I simply told you the truth of the moment. Ending it won’t extinguish your suffering. I’ve obviously offended you, but for that I can’t say that I’m sorry.”
“I think it’s best you leave before…I go against my better nature.” Dominic said gloomily.
They parted ways. Silas left from Dominic’s dark apartment into a brisk, fall night. Leaves had just began dying, they covered the sidewalk, blanketing his every step. Like Dominic, he came close to ‘ending it all’ several times. What lead to the confrontation was that he did not believe Dominic’s suffering. To him, it was all too neat and innocent. Still, he couldn’t shake the feeling that he was wrong. What if Dominic’s plight was more brutal than his own? At this thought he looked up and found himself in a clearing where no buildings obscured
his view of the night sky. It brimmed with deep purple, blue, sparse stars and a full, yellow moon.
A sensation, raw and inarticulate, ambled in his soul. His head was spinning from his meeting with Dominic. In fact, this feeling had been in him even before they’d met so many years ago, when the world was fresh and jubilant. He couldn’t help feeling that the night was an error – an elongated and irrevocable stain.
He fell to thinking, wondering where he would sleep the night. He stopped in front of a small diner; the fluorescent lights momentarily obscured his vision.
“They’re all at ease; going about their lives without a care. They’re eating, laughing and drinking in this little coffin without a worry. Is such a life plausible for me?” he thought.
He emerged from his reverie and stared at his reflection; he saw a gaping, sonorous void. It became clear that things between he and Dominic were irreparable. “But what did he expect? Some fashionable response?” flashed through his mind.
He waved down a cab, got in and thought of Claire’s face and the simple-hearted expression that lingered upon it. “Take me to the New Center area, quickly.’ he said with feeling.
The streets sped by; they were dormant, recovering from the daily, human stampede. Each moment felt stale and ubiquitous, as if they could have fallen from anyone’s life. He passed streets that were too familiar for him to see properly – the luster was gone, only the evidence of history remained.
An array of images clamored in his soul. He wanted nothing more that to end the refrain of frigid ideations rushing on top of his psyche, but the more he fought them, the more persistent they became. The hideous, deafening silence was only punctuated by the occasional turn signal and the softly droning engine.
He saw the apartment and told the driver to stop. He paid him the exact amount and got out. His jagged, twisted pride was hard to swallow. The walls inside of him split rivers and obscured voices. When he reached her intercom, he noticed that his palms were sweaty. After announcing himself, her voice cut through the static: “Oh, it’s you! Come up.”
When he reached her door, she opened it and began hugging him. “Where have you been? I haven’t seen you in ages.” she said breathlessly. He muttered that he’d been busy nearly drowning in the experience that is life.
Her apartment was decently furnished; she had high-quality, brown leather furniture, glass end tables and high ceilings. Abstract paintings by contemporary artists decorated the walls.
“I haven’t been well, Claire. Even small trifles spin me towards wrath. I feel like a flame that, having burned too brightly, ventures further and further into extinction. Though, I wouldn’t be a man at all if your presence didn’t brighten my soul.”
She made tea and they spoke about general subjects.
“Your ideas have always been worthwhile,” Claire began, with an intense gaze, “It’s just that you sometimes fly a little close to the sun. And the beautiful thing is that you’ve grown more vocal over time.”
He suddenly felt sordid and burdensome, but he continued listening. He told her that he tried to ‘end it all’ plenty of times.
“This in no way makes me special,” a caustic smile stretched across his face, “it goes without saying that a man cannot escape from himself, is that not correct?”
“Not only is it true; it is vital. My students come to me every semester saying, ‘I want to be an artist.’ I want so much to ask them, ‘do you know what it is you want for yourself?’ The struggle, the suffering, the rejection; most don’t have the constitution for that life. There’s no
finality; no closure to accompany the pain. I knew all along you possessed whatever that is. You’re very lonely, I can see it in your face.” she said meaningly.
He told her that he was still finding his voice; that daily life left him submerged in himself, where exits held no light. Then he told her about Dominic.
“Nothing is irreparable unless one of you wants it to be,” she leaned towards him. There was something innocuous, yet prurient in her eyes, “you’ve always seen stuff differently – in your way. You don’t feel guilty, do you? He may have been jealous of you. No, he was envious. It’s his nature. I remember him celebrating when you stumbled and bemoaning your triumphs.”
“That’s why I knew I must see you, Claire! Truly, you are my muse. You’ve no idea how much I’ve needed your words. Everything around me is decaying at a rapid pace. Why do you look at me that way? It’s clear I’m a scoundrel. The worst sort even, because I claim to know better. I’m filled with the worst vanities. The worst of my offences is that I pretend!” He said all but in rapture.
“Give me your had. Yes! You’re shaking. It’s ok to be you.”
Her ancestors were poor Irish and English immigrants. His were black Americans who faced neo-slavery. This living history offered no answers; it only lingered in their blood, fashioning their shared experience.
She got him some blankets and made him a cot on the big sofa. She told him goodnight, turned out the lights and vanished into her bedroom. Exhausted, he stretched out across the sofa; reflecting over many different subjects.
He slept long and hard. When he awoke, Claire was gone. There was a note on the coffee table: Gone to work. Take whatever you need. Heavy, grey clouds were suspended in the sky. He went into the small kitchen and grabbed a red pear out of the refrigerator, then went and stood on the balcony. An irrational longing hung in him like an idle chandelier. He finished and put the pear’s skeleton in the trash. Upon returning to the balcony, he reached into his jacket and lit a cigarette.
He looked down at the intersections and heavy traffic, unsure of where he would rest by day’s end. The trees, like permanent hallucinations, extended toward the cloud-obscured sky. His face, like the past, constantly enfolded upon itself – refusing to be pervaded by illumination. A nullifying wind wrested him from his absorption. Troubled thoughts descended upon him like birds of prey.
After making sure things were in order, he locked her door and left the apartment. While descending the winding staircase, he heard the faint rumble of thunder and ideas, shining and restless, came to him. Outside, in the crowds, he passed bodies rife with latent anxiety and confusion. He looked down only to see shallow puddles of rainwater and looked up to advertising billboards.
He heard a familiar voice in the crowd, then saw Dominic’s face. He approached with a smile. “I watched you. Yes, I watched you from my vehicle. I thought you would come here; how well I know you, eh? You were on Claire’s balcony smoking and eating something…”
He told him that it was a pear.
“Yes, it was delicious, no? I slept on it and this morning, early, I felt such deep remorse in my heart. I had to find you and explain myself. We’re both scoundrels, right?”
“I’m not. Or, at least, I don’t want to be any longer. What do you want with me?”
“Oh, right. I was wrong: I simply forgot how brilliant you are. Come. You can live with me for however long you need.”
“But yesterday…I offended you. I meant to offend you. Why are you even…here?”
“I know you’re offensive, but look,” he began, his dark eyes watching Silas intently. “I realized your sickness; it’s hard for you to be silent. If I ‘end it all’ I would still suffer. I suppose I was wrong. Perhaps the men we’ve become can’t coexist.”
“I’m afraid you’re totally right.” he began walking away. Dominic stood still, nearly waving his arms.
“You’ll never be rid of me for as long as we’re alive, Silas!”
He looked back to see Dominic’s tall, brown figure walking in the opposite direction. He felt surreal, as if he were in someone’s discarded dream. He tried to pretend that his feelings didn’t exist; that they never existed. He tried to put his ideation to sleep, but vague sensations under his skin kept them awake.
Claire’s face surfaced from his subconscious like sprouts in the spring. He remembered when the three of them went swimming and he nearly drowned in the deep end. As consciousness returned to his teenage body, he heard her ringing voice. She told him, interspersed with tears and laughter, that he “flew to close to the sun”; that he “owed her”; and to “never do that again. Ever.”
Later that night they attended a party, and after drinking cognac, they began kissing. He recalled the smell of her breath and the wisps of her long, dark hair that got caught in his mouth. After that, their only instance of physical intimacy, they agreed to never put their relationship in jeopardy again. These memories, like long-lost artifacts, washed over his interior.
He kept walking and went into a coney island. After going into the tiny bathroom, he began sobbing uncontrollably. The light filtered through his tears, complicating his vision. He stood up and looked into the mirror, hoping to find someone self-assured, chemically balanced and absolved. He found no one.
J.L Moultrie is a native Detroiter, poet and fiction writer who communicates his art through the written word. He fell in love with literature after encountering Fyodor Dostoyevsky, James Baldwin, Rainer Maria Rilke and many others. He considers himself a literary abstract artist of modernity.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.