Chapter 1: Empty
This is a sneak peak of my upcoming novel 'L’appel Du Vide'
Have you ever had that feeling of driving into oncoming traffic or jumping off a building? Not because you’re suicidal, but because you just feel like you need to. Then you snap back into your normal frame of thought and think to yourself that everything is fine. That my friend is “L’appel du vide” or loosely translated to English, the call of the void. Some people hear the call more than others, like me… I mean, don’t get me wrong, life has been somewhat good to me. I’m 27, I have an apartment and a cat, a decent paying job, I drink sometimes, and I have the occasional female companion. My life is simple, yet the void calls to me as if I’m not happy with what I have, as if I’m incomplete.
The alarm rings 6:30 AM every day. I stand up and stretch then I head to the kitchen and make myself some coffee. I yawn and head to the bathroom while I wait for the coffee. I see myself in the mirror and wonder, “What would ten-year-old me think about who I have become?” I chuckle a bit and start brushing my teeth, then I handle my business and get ready for work. I sit down at the small kitchen table looking at my fat cat as she lays there on my sofa.
“You should get a job, Pandora, help with the bills.” I smile a bit thinking that my comment was funny, she just meows back and heads to my bedroom.
I sit there for about 10 minutes in silence. I realize that it is Friday and later my friends wanted to go to the bar and drink a bit. I groan, because I know that one of them is going to do something stupid…again. I stand up, give Pandora some food and head out the door as I make my way downstairs. I run into my landlord, Ms. Comstock. She’s a nice older woman, attractive, for her age. She had grey streaks in her auburn-colored hair, her face had some wrinkles — not much, but enough to show that she has life experience. She smiled at me and I smiled back as I walked past. I wondered what she was doing right now, but then I realized she goes on morning jogs.
I walk over to my 2007 Chevy Impala and notice a few new dings on the doors, probably from those damn kids running around the neighborhood. I sigh and slowly get into my car. I sit there for a moment thinking about just calling in sick and staying home. I shake my head and start driving to work. The radio is playing my playlist from my phone, the song “La Vie en Rose” plays as I take my boring commute to work. A small tear forms as I hear that old song. It reminds me of a woman I once loved, a woman I would have done anything for, a woman that left me when I needed her most. I wipe the tear away and keep driving.
Traffic starts to get heavy and I start to drive a lot more carefully to avoid any of these damn nutcases from hitting me, but then…it happened. A brief thought, a desire to just jerk the steering wheel, so I can drive into oncoming traffic. I shake my head and I look at the traffic…
“What the hell is wrong with me,” I let out a nervous chuckle and try to focus on the road.
The details of the drive seem to become a blur to me, my mind lost in a trance as my body just reacts to the world around me, the thought pops up again, but I am already at my destination. I slowly get out of my car and question my sanity for a brief second, before heading into the office building. I go towards the elevator and bump into Todd, ugh…Todd, what can I say about the guy? He’s a brown-nosing cunt, who everyone hates, but pretends to like, because nobody wants to deal with the bullshit drama. The guy wears a damn sweater vest and thinks he is the backbone of this establishment with his thin smile and balding head, the guy is an idiot. Todd says something to me, but I ignore it; not like whatever he says really matters, but apparently this time it did matter, because the damn elevator was out of order.
“Stairs it is then…” I groan at the thought of walking up to the third floor.
Once I reached my cubical, I hear a whinny female voice talking about her shitty kids and how they are her world, blah blah blah… She turns to me, smiles and waves. I smile back and wave a bit. Becky…another blonde bimbo that couldn’t figure out her ass from a hole in the ground. She was low-key self-centered and she slept with people to get the position in the firm, because let’s be honest, her mathematics skills are horrible, so I end up fixing her issues, so that the company doesn’t lose clients. I hate that bitch with a passion. I get it you love your snot nosed brat, now shut the fuck up and get to work or at least try to.
I sit down and get started on my work, eventually taking small breaks to look at memes. Becky pops her head up and looks at me.
“So, are you going to the office party later this week? Sandra from Accounting will be there.” She smiles and winks.
I look over at her, “Becky…we are all in Accounting,” I look at her, my face lacking any emotion, “and no, in fact, I would rather be ran over, set on fire, and pissed on than deal with any of you longer than I have to.” I turn back to my work.
It takes a moment, but then I realize what I just said, my eyes widen a bit as I think about how much of an ass I just was. I focus on my work until it is time for me to clock out, no lunch breaks, no bathroom breaks, just work. Once I leave the office I remember once again that I have to meet my friends at the bar. I slowly head over to the old McBride pub that is downtown. I loved the place, it was a classic pub design and it felt comforting. It reminded me of simpler times when I was a child; the times when I didn’t know who my father was and when my mother was an alcoholic that spent most of her time working or drinking in a bar that was owned by my “Aunt.”
I blank out again, not fully paying attention, yet reacting perfectly to my surroundings, as if I am guided by some invisible force. I see myself in the rear-view mirror; I look dead, drained of all life, as if I’m just a walking corpse going through the motions of life. My eyes seem darker than usual, my skin incredibly pale, I don’t even recognize myself for a moment. Once I reach my destination, I sit in the car for a bit longer scanning the environment. I notice that the bar has become a hipster hot spot — damn kids with their weird fedoras and horrible man buns. I get out of the car, and walk in to the old place. The bartender, Jimmy, sees me and sets me up with a few shots of vodka. I thank him and grab them and head to the booth that my friends are in.
They are sitting there talking about who would win in a fight, a zebra with a minigun or a lion with a RPG. I sit down next to Jessica. Jessica was an amazing person, very strong-willed, she beat cancer a few years ago and is now enjoying her life and making every day count. Her hair was short, her smile was beautiful, and she had the personality to match. She made the group whole, bringing us together and making us smile, even when we were in pain. Tim starts talking about how the Zebra would win, because of how cool they are. I roll my eyes a bit and smile. Tim was an amazing person, a veteran who lost his arm in Afghanistan, yet he can still kick anyone’s ass in a fight. We met when I got into a bar fight with a guy who was 300 pounds of muscle and 6 feet tall. Tim saved my ass and we became friends afterwards. Samantha commented on how the lion would win because of the fact that it is a predator. Samantha was sweet, pretty, and a wallflower, but when she was with the group she was so loose and had fun; she was comfortable with us, she was family. Fred laughed at the idea of those two battling it out and pointed out the fact that they had no thumbs to use the weapons. Fred was a logical thinker, 30, divorced, yet smart enough to have had his now ex-wife sign a prenup. He had grey streaks in his hair from his stressful marriage, but now he’s pretty happy. They all look at me and wait for my input on the topic.
“I um… I think that they would um... I think that they would join forces and build an army to take on the human,.” I say while grabbing one of my shots.
“Holy shit,” Tim says with his eyes wide open. “I think you’re right.”
Everyone starts talking about how a war between heavily armed animals and humans would go. I start drifting off into my thoughts then Jessica pulls me back with a whisper.
“Are you okay? You seem off.” She looks concerned.
“I… I don’t know, I keep getting this urge to just kill myself.” I look down at my drinks and I feel her hand on my shoulder.
“Look, loosen up, get drunk, and I’ll be the designated driver for tonight.” She smiles and looks at me.
I nod and drink down another shot of vodka. I raise my hand up to call Jimmy over, I order a few more drinks and a big batch of nachos for the group. I smile and start engaging in more conversation as the alcohol slowly kicks in. I feel it though, the call of the void, the emptiness seems so inviting, the silence, the lack of emotions, the lack of pain. I try to ignore it, I try to fight it and have a good time. The whole night was a struggle, an endless battle between me and the void. Near the end of the night, I am inebriated, so Jessica helps me to my car and has me sit in the passenger seat while she drives me home.
“Dude, that was fun.” She smiles.
I chuckle a bit, “Yeah it was, wait…didn’t you drink?” I look at her with an eyebrow raised.
“Nope, virgin drinks. I’m responsible enough not to drink.” She laughs then gets serious, “But what’s going on with you? You’re usually very active and fun during the weekly hang out.”
I look out the window, “I… I don’t know. I just feel like I am fighting a losing battle.” As I say this, a tear goes down my cheek.
“I understand,” she replies.
There is a blanket of silence that covers us for the rest of the ride home. I look back on my life, and wonder if I am okay. I mean my childhood wasn’t the best, but it wasn’t the worst. We reach my place and she helps me to my apartment. I smile a bit and look as I open the door.
“If you want, you can take my car to head home, just bring it back tomorrow.” I look at her as I say this.
She looks back at me “Actually, I think I’ll stay with you tonight to make sure you’re okay.” She replies with deep concern in her voice.
“I appreciate that…” I walk inside and plop on my sofa. “Thank you, Jessica.”
She closes the door behind her and nods. She sits down next to me. I close my eyes and think about earlier. I can feel Jessica staring at me and then I feel her getting up. A few moments later, I smell the aroma of freshly made coffee. I open my eyes and head to the kitchen.
“It’s like you read my mind,” I say jokingly.
She smiles and hands me a cup of coffee. I take a sip and then I go sit down at the dining room table. I look out the window to see the stars in the sky. I smile a bit and think about how big the universe is compared to us, how insignificant we all are. The void starts to call to me once again, I imagine myself floating within the void, with no feelings, no pain, and it was freeing. I come back to reality and look at Jessica, her eyes filled with concern… I stand up and walk over to her, I hug her and tears start rolling down my face. Memories wash over me, days when I was alone, days when I had nobody to talk to but the voices in my head. My childhood was lonely and cold and I was left empty because of it.
I pull away a bit, Jessica wipes my tears away and then she kisses me. My eyes widen, but it felt so right, as if this was the light I needed to fight against the darkness. I kissed her back and held her close. Emotions I have not felt in years rushed over me. I felt human once more. The kiss became filled with passion from both sides, like a raging fire, it consumed us like nothing we ever felt before. It was…amazing. We made it to my bedroom, slowly, yet passionately, removing articles of clothing as we kiss. I kiss her neck and she feels on the scars on my back as she lets out little gasps of pleasure. The flow of passion that washed over us was unlike anything I have ever felt before. That night Jessica and I made love and it was the most beautiful thing I have ever done.
The next morning, I woke up, both of us naked in my bed holding one another. Jessica is feeling on the scars on my chest.
“Good morning.” I said to her, as I let out a small yawn.
She looks up at me and smiles. “Good morning, you kinky stud.” She teases me a bit and continues to trace my scars with her figures.
“I got those when I was a child… I was…beaten a lot as a kid.” I look away when I tell her that. “The one you are feeling was a stab wound from school.”
She looks at them then back at him, she slowly gets up. “I-I’m sorry if I was making you feel uncomfortable. I didn’t know…”
I look at her and sit up, “No, it’s okay. It really is.” I smile a bit and get out of bed. “Would you like some breakfast?”
She nods and grabs one of my flannel shirts. I head to the kitchen and take out some eggs, bacon, and bread. She heads to the bathroom while I cook. I start humming "La Vie en Rose" to myself and then I stop.
“No. Not again. Not like last time.” I start to freak out a bit.
The memories of Jazmin were still fresh in my mind, the love I felt for her, the pain I put myself through just to care for her. A feeling I felt when she left me while I laid in that hospital bed. She was the reason I left Texas and came to Seattle. I remember the day we met, it was at a party. I found her annoying and yet…I felt attracted to her. She was different, or so I thought. I remember the day I told her that I loved her, was after we danced to the song "Unchained Melody," the aroma from freshly baked walnut cookies filled the air. I remember looking into Jazmin’s beautiful blue eyes and telling her how I felt. I loved her and we had a decent relationship until it ended horribly. I was in the hospital after my appendix ruptured and I needed her there for me. Instead, she picked her ex fuck-buddy over me and left me while I was recovering from surgery. For a few months, I fell into the bottle and eventually I gave up on love. I gave up on being happy. So, I just worked until I could afford to leave Texas and escape my past. Escape her.
I stood in the kitchen, holding an egg when I realized what was going on. Jessica was staring at me, checking to see if I was okay. I told her what I was thinking about and she understood or at least I thought she did. The conversation went something like this:
“Are you all right?” She stood by the refrigerator.
I nod and look at the egg in my hand. “I…I hope you didn’t get the wrong idea from last night.” I turn to her.
She looks confused. “What do you mean?”
My face becomes void of any emotions or expressions and my tone becomes flat. “This was not love, it was an act of lust and I do not believe in love.”
She nods, grabs her stuff, and gets changed. She leaves without eating. I think to myself that it went better than expected. I was wrong, so very wrong. I sat at home that day wondering if she was okay and if I should call her just to check up on her, but I didn’t. I just sat there looking at my cell phone, trying to organize myself, trying to figure out if I did anything wrong. I mean I felt that I was in the right, considering my completely rational fear of falling in love.
Sadly, it turns out that the only person that did something stupid among my friends…was me.