5/15/2015

You Won't Know (Short Story)

You Won’t Know

    My good friend Faith called me and asked for help with moving out of her apartment. She mentioned a fight with her roommate, but I didn’t think it was a big deal. I parked in a fire zone in front of her building and threw my hazards on before getting out of the car. There was a little ding when the elevator reached the seventh floor. I walked through the yellow halls to Room 707 and knocked at the door. A few seconds later Faith appeared, dressed in gray sweatpants and a white tank top and I could see her black bra through the tank top. There were circles beneath her eyes and her brown hair was tied into a messy bun. As always, her blue eyes glistened amidst her otherwise disheveled appearance. She held her hands in the shape of a gun under her chin and pulled the trigger with a slight twitch of the head.
    “Thank God you’re here,” she said.
    The apartment was destroyed. There were garbage bags and boxes stacked in the center. The couches were pushed away from the television. The rug that once covered the floor was twisted around itself in the corner, as if somebody had thrown it across the room and knocked over the potted plant, which was lying on its side, and dirt and pebbles from the pot had spilled everywhere.
    “What happened?” I asked.
    I could hear her roommate Britney screaming at her boyfriend behind a closed bedroom door. “She needs to get out,” Britney yelled. Her boyfriend was in there trying to console her, but his voice could only be heard as a gentle mumble from outside the room
    “I’ll tell you later,” Faith said quietly. Her eyes darted to Britney’s door.
    “She better leave,” Britney shouted. “Before I kick her fucking ass!”

    Faith responded to Britney’s shrills with, “I’m leaving."

    There was a loud bang as something hit the wall. After another soft mumble from her boyfriend, Britney projected, “Fuck a hole in the wall!”
    Faith widened her eyes at me and took a deep breath, then motioned with her hand for me to follow her into the other bedroom. It used to be her bedroom, but now it was just boxes, bags, and a suitcase. She scanned the room. “I don’t need to bring it all tonight,” she said, her voice soft and nervous, “I can come back tomorrow for the rest.” Her gaze darted back and forth between the debris and her luggage. She paced, talking to herself and examining her packed belongings. “This box is an art project,” she said, going through a checklist in her mind, “so are all of those bottles…” She picked up two white garbage bags filled with shoes. “These are my nice shoes,” she said, holding up the bag in her right hand, “I never wear them.” She shrugged and dropped the bag on the ground, then held up the other bag and said, “these are my crappy shoes.” She threw that bag over her shoulder. Lastly, she pointed to a set of white plastic boxes on the floor, looked at me, and said, “one of those is really heavy.”
    I picked up the heavy box, and at first it didn’t seem so bad.
    “Hang on,” Faith said, and lingered in her bedroom.
    While I stood there waiting for Faith, Britney opened her bedroom door. She at me with crazed eyes, wielding a broomstick like a sword. Normally she would have recognized me, but right now it didn’t seem to register.
    “What are you doing?” her boyfriend asked in a calm voice.
    “Getting this shit out of my room,” she howled. Her face looked like Ragu meat sauce, left on the burner too long, and her rage had bubbled to the surface.
    “You’re gonna need this,” her boyfriend said, and tossed her the sweeping part of the broom. He buried his face in his hands, gently massaging his temples.
    “Ugh!” Britney snorted. She screwed the pieces together and used the broom as a hockey stick to shoot a pile of potted-plant filler pebbles in my direction. They hit my ankles like tiny bee stings, and I flinched. She looked at me one last time then slammed the door and continued to scream at him.
    The box was really starting to kill my arms, so with a sigh of relief I put it down on the kitchen counter. As soon as I could wipe the sweat dribbles from my brow, Faith walked out of her room. She carried a purple suitcase and the bag of crappy shoes was slung over her shoulder. When she saw me panting like a dog in her kitchen, she laughed. “Do you want me to carry that?” she asked.
    “No,” I said, then heaved the box from the counter and shuffled my feet toward the door. Neither of us had a free hand, but it wasn’t a problem. Faith hooked her foot around the knob and used it to pull the door open. We went into the hall, and just before the door closed behind her Faith yelled, “I still have to come back!”
    “So,” I said, gasping to breath, “what happened?” My arms were on fire. I couldn’t wait to put the box down in that elevator. It seemed to gain more weight with each step, so I walked faster.
    “Well,” she said, “it’s a long story.”
    There it was. The elevator. I used the corner of the box to push the down button. Then propped my knee up with my foot against the wall and rested the box on top. My biceps throbbed with pain. It was the most athletic activity I had done in months. “What are there, rocks in here?” I asked.
    “No, my drugs are in there,” she said, “so don’t drop it.”
    The elevator door opened with a ding. To my relief, it was empty. We went inside and I put the box down in the corner. Faith pressed the button for the ground floor, and the elevator door closed.
    “I think I’m ready for your story,” I said.
    The elevator jerked downward.
    “Do you know Katie Williams?” she asked.
    “No,” I said. “Why?”
    “She’s my neighbor,” Faith said, “and she has a weight problem, but she’s such a sweetheart. And Britney decided to bully her.”
    “So you stuck up for her?”
    Before Faith could respond, the elevator door opened with a ding and a fratty-looking gentleman stepped inside holding the hand of his attractive blonde girlfriend. He brought with him the strong odor of beer and cigarettes; a strange scent when mixed with the sweet smell of his girlfriend’s perfume. The fratty gentleman gave me a head nod then the door shut and the elevator jerked downward.

I first met Faith in poetry class at Chazton college. The class was centered around reading and critiquing other student’s poetry. Faith’s poems had a certain dark tone to them, and were even more appealing than her obscure beauty. One day, I gathered the courage to stop her after class. I asked for her phone number and told her that I really liked her poetry. She mentioned a boyfriend, but still gave me her number. I didn’t bother to call. A few weeks later she brought a collection of ten poems to class and sneakily passed them to me under the table. When class ended she scrambled away, and I took the poems home to read them.
    Later that night I sat in my dimly-lit room with pen in hand and read through Faith’s poetry. At the top of the first page was a scribbled note: These are very personal. Don’t judge me, and don’t show anybody! ~ Faith. I found myself lost in her words. One poem presented the speaker’s mind as a psychiatric institution, the speaker a patient. In another poem the speaker had a troublesome long-distance relationship. The final poem in the collection, though, hit me the hardest. It described, in graphic detail, an incident of sexual assault. Was it her way of reaching out? I wasn’t sure.
    I flipped the packet over and wrote a short letter on the back of the page. In the letter I expressed my gratitude for the opportunity to read her poetry, then signed my name at the bottom. Underneath my signature I wrote the words talk to me. After I wrote them, they reeked of desperation, so I scribbled over them until I was absolutely certain of their illegibility. I shoved the poetry in my backpack and anxiously awaited giving them to Faith in class.
    When I walked into class the next day, Faith fidgeted and watched me with an uneasy glare. I sat down and turned to say something, but she quickly looked away. She didn’t look in my direction again until the teacher started speaking. That day we were going to workshop the poetry of a kid named Marty Goldstein. I didn’t particularly enjoy Mr. Goldstein’s poetry, so instead of paying attention, I allowed my mind to wander about my future conversation with Faith. My professor’s voice became nothing more than a low buzzing in my ears. Class droned on and I zoned-out, watching the hands slowly turn on the clock above the door. Class finally ended and I reached into my bag to grab Faith’s packet of poetry.
    Faith stood up, cautiously watching me from the corner of her eye. She crept toward the door, shooting careful glances. I tried to time it perfectly and leave with her, but it didn’t work. Luckily, she was waiting for me when I walked outside.
    “Hey,” she said. 
    “Hey,” I said, “Your poems were awesome,” then handed them to her. “I left you some notes.”
    “Thanks,” she said, and stuffed the poems in her bag. We started off walking together, and there was a thoughtful silence. Were her poems really that personal? If so, why would she show them to me, of all people? I had to speak.
    “Can I ask you something?”
    “Sure,” she said. “But I think you already know the answer.” She stopped walking and her eyes met mine. It was the first time their color had struck me, but there was more about her eyes than just the color. Somewhere in that blue ocean was a sunken ship, and everybody on board had drowned. She blinked, and I felt my eye twitch.
    “Do, uh,” I stuttered, “you need help?”

When Faith and I returned to her room, Britney’s door was still closed, but the screaming had stopped. Faith looked at me with a grin, and it took me a moment to realize the reason for her smile. Listening closely, I could hear the creaking sound of Britney’s bed.
    “That’s one way to shut a girl up,” I said.
    Faith punched me in the arm. “Shush,” she said, with a finger to her lips.
    The creaking stopped, and there was a moment of painful suspense as we waited for the onset of the next hurricane Britney, but it didn’t happen. Instead, Britney came out of her room, her hair a mess, her mouth curved in a gentle smile. Her boyfriend stood behind her.
    “Hey Franklin,” she said.
    “How’s it going?” I asked.
    Britney giggled and grabbed her boyfriend’s hand. He gave me a head nod and said, “sup.” They were both looking at the floor as they strutted past me and out of the apartment. After they left, Faith grabbed her mini-vacuum from a kitchen cabinet and sucked up a small pile of dirt. Then she went into the bathroom and emptied the vacuum’s dust bin into the trash. “Check this out,” she said.
    When I walked into the bathroom, she held up a bottle of lavender hand soap. Written in black sharpie on top of the pump was the name, Britney. On the label was, Don’t use my soap, you dirty bitch!
    “Wow,” I said. “She’s kind of insane.”
    “It gets so much worse,” Faith said. “Follow me.”
    We went into the kitchen and Faith opened a cabinet. She pulled out a box of cereal, and on the side was written, Starve, mooch! Buy your own food! And underneath that was a big, bold, letter B. Then Faith opened the fridge and pulled out a bottle of vodka. Again, in black sharpie on the label was, Britney’s vodka, you disgraceful whore.
    “You really didn’t do anything?” I asked.
    “Well,” she said. “I kind of did some fucked up shit,” she laughed. “But I don’t think they know yet.”
    “Like what?”
    “You can’t tell anybody.”
    “Yeah,” I said. “Get on with it.”
    She smirked and showed me the can of pepper spray on her key chain. “I sprayed this on all of her toilet paper. Next time she wipes it’s gonna burn like hell.”
    I laughed nervously and asked, “Is that all?”
    “No,” she said. “I put laxatives in all of her drinks, including the vodka.”
    “It won’t be long before she needs to use the toilet paper,” I shook my head. “Anything else?”
    “The last thing,” she said, “is a little gross.”
    “What did you do?”
    “I pissed in her lotion.”

The first time I ever went to Faith’s apartment was that day after poetry class. When we walked in, Britney was sitting peacefully on the couch with her boyfriend, eating popcorn and watching Fight Club. The place was in unrecognizably good condition compared to the night that I helped Faith move out. Britney and her boyfriend both looked up but didn’t say anything as Faith and I walked past into Faith’s bedroom. Once inside, Faith locked the door and motioned for me to join her on the bed. My arms and legs trembled in her icy gaze, but still I sat down beside her, a purple pillow propped up behind us. She leaned on my shoulder and started going through my notes on her poetry.
    “I don’t know if this was a good idea,” she said. “I have some serious, serious issues.”
    “Don’t worry,” I said. “I don’t judge.”
    “You better not fall for me,” she said. “I like to take guys’ souls and play with them like video games.”
    I let out an uneasy laugh. “You’re kidding, right?”
    She turned to me, blinked twice and asked, “Does it look like I’m kidding?” Then she leaned in to kiss me and I felt a cold tingle run through my veins. She hopped on top of me and kissed me aggressively, and I let it happen for a few minutes.
    “Wait,” I said, pushing her off me. “Don’t you have a boyfriend?”
    Faith rolled her eyes and and said, “Maybe. Kind of. I mean, yeah. I guess.”
    “How do you expect me to trust you?”
    She put her right index finger on my lips and pressed her nose against mine. “Shut your mouth,” she said. “I need this.”

When Faith and I walked out of the building with the last of her boxes, my car was nowhere to be found. I asked the security guard at the front desk if he had seen it, and he told me that he had called a tow truck because I was parked in a fire zone. The tow truck had just pulled away with my car, and the impound lot was a few miles up the road, but it had already closed for the night.

No comments :

Post a Comment