A story I wrote years ago, with minor amendments. Progress is slow.
He stood in silence. Jake didn’t mind, really. And, if he did, it was not as though he could show it. Paul listened. Breathing, mechanical hissing, footsteps and whispers – the usual repertoire of lifeless sounds. He looked around. The room was orderly and clean, the sheets on the bed unruffled and pale. He tried to take a deep breath and almost choked. He needed some air, the night, a less painful quiet. He needed a light.
A good friendship is many things. First and foremost, though, it is the mutual desire to share. We share our time. We share stories, memories and ideas. When we meet someone cute and funny; when parents give us shit about decisions; when there is something we want desperately, our friends know. Relationships are built upon words, nourished by the music of laughter and strengthened by strife. But what happens when the words fade? When the laughter subsides? Paul pulled out a cigarette.
The hazes swirled away in the night chill. Funny, he thought, how even smoking reminded him of the accident. Jake was never a fan of sleep. He hated his bed, called it a prison. He always greeted the morning with a happy vengeance. Even after his wife’s passing, he sought to make others smile. He lived a normal life in many ways, but his heart was abnormally large, his eyes unnaturally bright and his story helplessly addicting.
Paul still remembers the day he met Jake. It was the middle of fourth grade, near Christmas time. Paul had just moved into the neighborhood and didn’t know a soul. He ate lunch alone. Walked home the same. Told his parents he was making tons of new friends. Then, one day, someone sat next to him in the corner of the cafeteria and asked Paul if he wanted one of his Lunchables pizzas. Paul offered applesauce in return. Everything changed. Paul came to love school; waking up with dread was a thing of the past. He took one last drag on his cigarette before crushing the butt under his foot. Waking up, for Jake, was a thing of the past.
He stepped into Jake’s room as he had at least once a week for the past eight years. Jake lay still, oblivious to his friend’s devotion, staring blankly into the universe that twisted his fate into a hopeless knot. Paul sat and wept. He remembered the high school dances, the late-night study sessions in college, their marriages. He didn’t know what to say. Indeed, ran out of words years ago. But, he knew what he wanted. He wiped his snot, glanced at the screens, and dropped lids to their resting place.