Two Secrets

Back when I played in band, the director passed out very simple arrangements of Bach and guys like that for us to warm up on. They were designed for the purpose, with long sustained notes so that those who were into that kind of thing could check their intonation. Nevertheless, despite their simplicity, when played well they sounded pretty nice.

My hard drive has a directory called “scribbles” cluttered with bits like that, things I wrote to get myself into a certain mood or just to explore a single moment or sketch a character. No big twists or surprises, no character development, just a few paragraphs that develop a feeling. Most of these derelicts aren’t terribly interesting, but now and then I write one that I put in the “slightly better” section of the junk drawer. I think now I’ll take those slightly better bits and put them here instead. Heck, I’m writing them anyway, I may as well get a blog episode out of them once in a while.

For example, here’s one from yesterday. Keep in mind that a polished final work is not the goal of the exercise.

The moment had to come, when the front door clicked shut behind her and she was back in her apartment, alone. The noise from the street outside was distant, only making the silence in the messy room all the more tangible. She stood, one arm holding the other, surveying a place that was no longer a home. It was changed, irrevocably; already the smell of Camel unfiltereds was fading, replaced by something else, something stale and dead.

Jillian had been waiting for this moment, tired of fighting through all the well-intentioned are-you-sure?’s and sympathetic smiles. She was sure — sure she didn’t want to be around any of those people anymore. People who pretended to understand but didn’t have the slightest clue, with their advice and empty assurances, people who couldn’t just shut the fuck up for a moment. Couldn’t they feel anything at all, these people? Couldn’t they see that she just needed some time to think?

She would be leaving soon. The only question was how far she would go. How far would the petty noise of all those people follow her, how far could their voices reach? There was one voice she could never escape, no matter how far she went, the voice she would never hear again.

She took another step into the room. The ash tray on the coffee table was overflowing, around it were empty beer bottles, Chinese take-out containers and pizza boxes. How many arguments had the clutter caused in the last two years? Two years! How had they not killed each other in that time?

Two years, and two secrets. Horrible, dark things, lurking, waiting to destroy. Jillian looked at the mess. Had Carla’s secret been written here all along, spelled out in alcohol and days on the sofa? Had she been slowly dissolving herself right before Jillian’s eyes, until the final act of dissolution was just another step in a long progression? Had Jillian ever truly heard her roommate’s voice, or had she drowned it out with her own?

Now there was only one secret. One secret, with nowhere to go, stripped of meaning, but heavier than ever. How many times had she tried to tell Carla, how many hints and clues had she left, telling her roommate that she loved her? How many nights had she jumped up from the sofa while they shared a blanket, watching a movie and munching popcorn, afraid of what she might do if she stayed? How many nights had she cried alone?

Had Carla been crying, too, on those lonely nights?


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