Pulling the messenger bag from his shoulder, Ted threw the every-pocket-filled bag onto the orange velvet living room couch. Bouncing high, the bags magnetic closing flap fell open and all the papers, pens, and books slid out and onto the smooth wooden floor below. With a not well directed kick, Ted smashed the toe of his shoe against the square leg of the couch. The hammer-to-nail like experience shot waves of crushing pain up his foot.
“Piece of shit! Just like today!” he wailed as he landed upon the cushion and gripped his foot, “Fuck today, fuck everyone, and FUCK everything! God damn it all! I fucking hate everything!”
Leaning her head out the arched kitchen doorway Kristy asked, “Bad day, huh?”
“Well, of fucking course; every day is a bad day it seems… Lately! I can’t stand this bull shit anymore. I work with morons; everyone around me are morons, and no one knows what they are doing. I swear, I would just be better off jumping out that window… Well, not that one, since if I land from this height I might not fully die, and those paramedics… Well, I can’t put much stock in them either.” Placing both feet onto the dark wood flooring, he fell back into the uneven cushions embrace. Resting his head upon the flat wide frame of the couch’s headboard, Ted closed eyes and muttered, “I also hate this fucking ugly couch…”
Coming into the living room with a dish she was drying she said, “I am sorry you feel that way today, Ted.” Laying down the dish upon a side table, she began to pick at the edges of a patch where the velvet had been pulled away, leaving the rough woven material beneath open, “I rather like the couch… Anyways; can I get you anything to help you relax a bit?”
Placing the flats of his hands against his face he sarcastically giggled, “How do you like this couch? I mean, seriously? If anything, it is a perfect symbol of all the bullshit around here in our lives.”
Picking up the dish with a sigh, she asked, “In what way is this many hand-me-down couch symbolic of all the annoyances you experience?”
Rolling his eyes, he said, “Really? You don’t see all the bullshit that is surrounding us?” Hunching over with each elbow against a knee he continued, “I mean, hell, I feel I am suffocating in the annoyance of all these idiots. They fill, like, every space of our existence.
I really feel we should have the option to use force against others that are too stupid to be alive. What we need is to have one of those days to correct stupid; kind of like that movie we saw that lets everyone be lawless for a full day – no crime considered.”
A shiver ran up her back, “I remember that movie, and I don’t like that you made us watch it. Leon didn’t really enjoy it either, I am sure of it. He was scared for days that the government would see the movie and then move to implement a similar idea.” With fist pressed to her hip she eyed him, “You weren’t much help either! Fueling his fear. It took me so much time to just calm him down and convince him otherwise.”
“I am not sure why you didn’t allow him to just go about living that dream. If I were dating him, since he is clearly a smart person, I would work with him to figure out the truth and see if he is onto something. You never know; and, he probably should of contacted his representation in congress to express his concern. Now, that is what I would have done.” With a sigh he said, “You really got to let that boy have some creativity, Kristy.”
Leaning back into the cushions he stared at the cream painted ceiling and sighed, “In all reality, we should just motivate people to do it; I mean, really make it happen. It would solve a lot of issues, I think…”
Sighing, Kristy picked up the wet dish and dried it more with the cloth in her hand. Turning around and making her way back to the kitchen she spoke over her shoulder, “I understand how you feel about me, Ted, and that I stifle your fun with Leon, but my intentions are pure and purposeful… not so sure of yours.”
Returning both palms upon his face he muffled through his hands, “So dumb… so weak… so dumb…”
“I am sorry, I can hardly hear you, Ted.” she said calmly as she disappeared around the corner of the door frame.
His voice growing as he stood, “You always think, Kristy, that you are doing the ‘right’ thing for Leon, but seriously – you are just holding him back. Every time I wake him to the world, you put water upon that blaze that I worked so hard to stir within him! It is just so stupid!”
“What is stupid, Ted?”
“Well… like, when you tell him opposite of what I tell him. I am trying to teach him to be awake while you are trying to keep him as a tool; easily used up and when broken thrown away.”
“Hmmmm…” she answered as she picked another dish to dry from the soapy water.
“Seriously… that is all you have to say?” he shouted.
WIth the click of the unlatching bolt lock, Ted upturned his wrinkled brow and cheered, “Leon!” before the door even fully opened. “I am glad you have finally gotten home. Christy is being… annoying – like everyone else in my day, thus far.” Turning from the kitchen, Ted stretched his step into the living room to meet Leon with outstretched arms.
Entering the room, Leon gave a simple nod towards Ted and turned to hang his keys on the three key holder. Two screws made it simple enough to install, but the obnoxious bronze capital lettering of the word KEYS always reminded him how he needed to replace it soon. Kristy always complemented the gift from Leon’s mother, but Ted gave it many different descriptions and even promised to tear it off the wall one day.
“Well…,” Leon said with a smile as he turned to face Ted, “I am sorry to hear that, but Kristy is pretty much always right; so, what happened?” Meeting in the doorway to the kitchen, Leon leaned down and kissed Kristy upon her cheek. Stomping closing behind, Ted followed them into the kitchen.
The glow of the white fridge light casted across his face as Leon reached into the fridge for his cake he bought the night before at the diner. With an ear to ear grin pulled tight across his face as he said, “Man, I am serious when I say – I have been thinking of this triple layered super dark chocolate cake all day at work.”
Arms pulled against his chest, Ted leaned a shoulder against the fridge’s closed door and huffed, “Well, I am glad you had an easy enough day and could simply think about cake, but for me… Well, for me, it was a usual shit day with shitty people dealing with a shitty job that I hate – every – single – day!” Pounding double fist upon the pressed wood kitchen counter with its cheap plastic overlay to give it that real wood faux look he gritted in frustration.
“Hey, hey,” Leon muffled through a mouth full of charcoal colored cake. Swallowing hard he reminded Ted, “You remember what Jenny said, ‘You break anymore of this apartment and you will pay for the repairs – even if they are accidental…’ so please don’t break more stuff around here, I can’t afford it.”
Rolling his eyes, “Just more bullshit! That landlord is an ass, just like our neighbors who complain any time I voice my opinion to all the bullshit in this world. Assholes! They just want to hold me back and hold me down!”
Forking the last piece Leon said, “Yup, man, I get it. I too get frustrated at my job, but I am not sure everyone is always bad by nat…”
“Fuck this,” Ted cut him off, and then stormed out the kitchen like a tornado tearing across the plains.
“I agree with you, Leon honey,” Kristy said while licking her thumb and wiping a line of chocolate off of Leon’s chin, “not everyone is that bad. While some are difficult, sometimes they just have a bad day too,” eyeing over her shoulder towards the child-like stomping of Ted as he made for his room.
Taking his chocolate finger painted plate, Kristy placed it under the grey water and scrubbed its porcelain surface, “I know he feels the need to vent to everyone about his views, but I wish he wouldn’t be so affected by his environment. Too bad we couldn’t find him another apartment to live at.”
Slamming a fist into the faux wood countertop, Leon pinched his eyes closed and gritted through his teeth, “I said, Kristy, that we can’t ask him to find another place. Him and I have been friends with since we were kids, and no one else will care for him like I do. We are best friends! I don’t like arguing about this, you know that!”
His shirt darkened under her wet hands as she worked to massage his peaked shoulders. Pressing upon her toes, Kristy gave a kiss to the back of his neck and then rested flat against his back, “I know, I get it. You guys have been with each other for a long time; it is just… you and I have been together longer and I would like us to have our lives together, alone, is all. Plus… Ted and I just don’t get on very well, but I will keep trying; for you.”
Lowering his hilly shoulders, Leon exhaled and turned to face her. With a tight embrace, he snuggled into her neck; making her giggle as he blew burst of air against her collar. Holding her tighter, he bent lower to press deeper into her shoulder. As they entered the living room, they could hear Ted, again, spouting off rants about the world and its problems behind his bedroom door. Resting on their couch, Kristy and Leon wrapped around each other into a relaxing cuddle and rested for the night.
With the approach of morning, Leon looked around a winter morning lit apartment with its washed over walls in greys and blues. Sleeping with a hand lying upon his chest, Leon lifted her arm and then lowered her slowly to the soft velvet cushions. Placing a pillow below her face, he kissed her cheek and made his way towards the kitchen to start preparing their breakfast.
“My god, it feels as if the heat never turned on at all last night…” Ted’s echoing voice sounded muffled as he spoke while taking a swig of coffee from his ceramic mug. Lowering the cup, he swirled around the remaining black coffee within and continued, “Man, even this coffee is cold… we should consider replacing that coffee pot.”
Leon gave Ted a half smirking nod. Tucking his head under the cabinet where they kept their pots and pans he searched for his favorite black cast iron skillet. The skillet was an absolute in the process of making his famous blueberry and walnut pancakes. After moving some disorganized mess around, he found it and asked, “I plan to make pancakes today, want some?”
“I am not sure… I mean, I am hungry, like super hungry, but I am not sure what I want to eat right now.” Falling into a slumped position against the wall, Ted placed his coffee mug on the floor and rested both hands against his forehead, “I just feel like crap today. I mean, you know: yelling at Kristy, I believe I am fired, and I just feel so low right now…”
Whisking the milk with the vinegar, Leon sighed and nodded in agreement, “I know, man, I know… life is kind of a hard place to live in sometimes. I too can’t feel so joyful all the time; it is just so… tough at times. I just wish things were easier, but sometimes they just suck.”
The clicking of the burner hit multiple times before the fire ignited. Prue blue flames with a few cast of orange danced along the skillet’s bottom. As the cool pancake mixture flattened upon the hot cast iron surface, sizzles echoed off the blank kitchen walls.
Soft vapors of steam rose from the stacked body of pancakes that rested like a pile of corpses below the maroon kitchen cloth. Hearing Ted’s voice murmuring in the corner, Leon looked over and saw Ted with one of the kitchen knives. As he lifted and lowered it to his wrist, he whimpered inaudible words. With quick hands, Leon pulled the knife away from Ted and stepped back.
“I just can’t take all of this bullshit anymore; day in and day out, it is always the same thing everywhere I go. I just want to stop this from happening…” Ted sobbed. His face reddened with swollen bulges below his eyes.
Tightening his grip into a fist over the hilt of the knife, Leon loomed over Ted. A cold void felt as if it were placed upon his chest and began to sink in. Observing, Leon began to see the robotic nature of his own life: expectations to perform properly, do as he is told, and comply without question. Pulling down his cheeks, a hot line of a tear escaped and rested at his chin.
Twisting the knife, Leon pressed the tip to the skin just below his palm. Without much pressure, he guided the nose of the boat down the river lines to the soft location where his forearm met his bicep. Looking down, a straight red line lead from start to finish.
Fireworks burst forth from his stomach up into his chest. The explosive warmth replacing the cold void’s damaging effect. Sharpening the blade’s edge against his skin, Leon rotated his arm like a rotisserie chicken being carved and served to guest.
His moment in time froze when Kristy rushed into the kitchen and shouted, “Leon, what in the hell are you doing?” Pulling the knife from his hand, she placed it down behind the sink’s faucet and grabbed the maroon towel from the pancake stack, “Oh my god, Leon; I need to wrap up this arm; you are bleeding so much.” As the pressure from the wrapped cloth pulled tight against his skin, the first feeling of pain became true and his mind awoke to see his raised hand painted red.
“I was in here to make you and I pancakes… and then Ted and I were talking about something,” but as he looked to the wall Ted was gone. Pulling him over to the sink, Kristy turned the water on high and pumped out multiple pools of liquid soap into her hand. He sucked in with a wince as she lathered his cuts.
Wrapping his arm in a new kitchen towel, Kristy rushed Leon into the bathroom. Dragging with her a chair, Kristy sat Leon down in front of the long mirror. Looking on, Leon saw the mess he had created for them. His arm was covered in many fine cuts from his wrist to elbow; each moving around the arm in shapes of frowns and smiles. Using her teeth to tear open gauze bags, she placed squares of cotton against his skin and pressed a hand against them as she wrapped his arm with medical tape. Looking down at her he said, “I am sorry, Kristy…” Glancing to his eyes only for a second, she returned her focus and worked in a frantic pace with each bandage.
Stepping away to gather more supplies from the bathroom’s cabinet, Ted replaced her image in the mirror; noticing him just over Leon’s shoulder. Leaning with arms resting against his chest and a head tilted back against the doorframe Ted said, “Really, Leon, it isn’t that bad; a few simple cuts is not a big deal. I have seen worse…”
Turning upon a swivel in her neck that was in much need of oil, Kristy bared her teeth and said, “Look here – Ted!, I know Leon protects you, but I am absolutely sick and tired of all your shit. You are a flake. You are not a friend. You are dangerous. Just leave! Leave us alone and I will clean up your mess – again.”
Peeling off to one side, Ted rolled his eyes and lumbered his way back to his room. Mumbling to herself about Ted’s arrogant personality, Kristy set to work on setting up the healing process once more. Seeing her bobbing around in the mirror, Leon felt warmed by her focused determination to always care for him. Peering over his shoulder, he noticed Ted’s bedroom door was open by a crack; the room was completely dark. Looking down at Kristy once more, he felt deeply apologetic.
Pulling Leon from the chair, the pain was becoming more of a realization as they made their way to their bedroom. Kristy pulled at his opposite hip to her and pulled him in tight. Helping him lower onto the bed, Kristy laid him back and rested her head against his chest, listening to the rhythm of his heart.
Though not wanting to pain Leon more, Kristy let out a sigh and revealed to Leon the hurt that Ted puts them both through; and that though they have been friends long enough to be considered a brotherhood, the effects of Ted upon Leon verge on dangerous to his health. With a lifting inhale of his chest, Leon closed his eyes and nodded in agreement, “I know… I know, and you are always right.”
With their eyes dried and their breathing tempered, they drifted into soft dreams filled of love, care, and shared memories. The bed took them in like a mother caring for her children, and they rested well for a few days.
Waking to find the room illuminated again and the trees outside full of blooming blossoms, Leon rose to his seat and stretched wide. Kristy was already up, he suspected, as he noticed she was no longer taking her place next to him. Making his way around the apartment, no one stirred. Noticing the velvet orange couch, it too was empty. To his delight, Kristy must have just made him coffee before she left as the pot was still very warm and provided wafts of soft white vapors as he poured himself a cup.
Preparing for his shower and the day ahead, Leon saw in the mirror the multiple slicing wounds that tattooed his skin from wrist to elbow. Gliding his fingers over the closed wounds, they felt like small speed bumps as he slowed his approach from wrist to the elbow. Deciding best attire for the day, he walked over to his bedroom and pulled from the closet a salmon colored formal button up shirt over his usual short sleeve polo variety.
Swallowing down the last mouthful of his yogurt parfait breakfast with a swig of coffee, he got up from the kitchen table and rushed to grab his keys. Excitement pulled at his breathing as he looked forward to a normal day at work with his friends: Kristy and Ted. After locking the door, Leon pulled from his messenger bag a book he was absorbed in. The plot was based on a protagonist who lived a life without purpose, until one day: he quit his job, closed his apartment’s lease, and took all of his savings and went backpacking around the world; leaving behind only his fears.
Without missing a step below his feet, his eyes darted across the pages. The world created was just for him; a private universe he could share with only himself. Living a vicarious life through someone else. At the most thrilling parts, Leon would sigh, look out at his life, and wonder if he would be as courageous one day too…
“Good morning Leon,” Ted said with an excited smile, “What are you reading?” Behind Ted, Kristy was in near pursuit with a smile and arms wide waiting for her hug.