Jonathon Kyle Vincent hung himself in his mother's basement. Not one in his relatively small town of 60,000 had seen it coming. Those who knew him by mere acquaintance thought the rope an odd method of self-destruction, considering the long minutes of breathless despair entailed in the thing. Those who knew him personally, those who ran in circles with him through his spheres of social existence, only wanted to know why.
Jonathon Kyle Vincent had a strong name, which dated back to the early American colonists, and how appropriate. Jonathon Kyle Vincent was the glorious dream, the endeavor toward greatness, suddenly stopped short; halted, and bringing to light instead, a queer mystery wrapping around some significant failure.
Jerry Daniel Marks was the closest of friends with this man, and was perhaps shocked most by the incident. The incident occurred on a howling night, in the late depths of September – in between the false hopes of summer and the weary melancholy of autumn. Jerry had received the news a mere 12 hours after the fact and did not know what to do with himself.
Deep breaths, deep breaths... In and then out... Chest hurts too much to move it... What do you mean dead? I talked to him last night ... Feel sick... Too dizzy... Need to lie down... It's a tragedy is what it is... Holy shit... Is it too bright in here? ... What happened? Does his mother know? ... This sun is way too fucking bright ... What do you mean dead?
Both boys were 23 when the incident broke open, facing life together, blindly, yet head on nonetheless. In this moment, Jerry exists beyond his single-room apartment, beyond his wrinkled sheets, beyond this gossiping town, beyond, beyond, beyond...
The sun outside was burning a hole through his consciousness. It was a sharp contrast to the dreary night before. How ironic. One among the sunniest and cheeriest days of the year, and it became the backdrop for his darkest day. Lost in thoughts that are lost themselves, he swirls around his room in dire despair. He looks out his window. Then wipes his mouth. Pulls his hair back. Finally lies down. He calls out, trying immediately afterward to reflect on everything, but he fails. He's lost his mind for the time being.
You don't think it was my fault? ... Couldn't have been my fault ... Is this really happening? ... This can't really be happening ... Oh God...
At long last he settles beneath his sheets, heavy as six feet of sand, cold as a marble slab. He sleeps for indeterminable hours, woken every now and again by his screaming subconscious and his subtle bursts of panic.
I thought he seemed happy ... Didn't he seem happy? ... Why would he do this? ... Damn it , Jon... Damn you for doing this to me...
A whole day gone, passed in a daze of impotent realization and shock to the point that he cannot even cry. Suddenly he leaps from his bed, seized by a brand new sense of awareness. He digs fervently through his dirty floor. First through unwashed clothes, then through graded papers. He's looking for something. Looking very hard. Next he moves to his dresser. Removing every article, he finally comes upon his desired possession. A solid gold coin. Once again, he lapses back into his blankets, mumbling inaudibly.
This isn't happening ... This isn't happening ... This isn't happening...
“You don't really wanna go down to Old Man Meyer's house, do you? I heard it's haunted!”
“Whaddya bein' such a baby for, Jerry? There's no such thing as ghosts.”
“That's what you think! Just wait until we get in there... I heard he killed his wife, then chopped her up into a thousand pieces. Now she walks the halls at night, looking for revenge!”
“Oh, that's just ridiculous. Now come on... You're never going to get anywhere in life unless you can muster a little gut. Follow me.”
When the boys were twelve, they spun an adventure together. Eleven years prior to the days that dealt sadness, they thrived on the cusp of adolescent greatness. Mere novices in the raw jungle of hormonal development, they were best friends. The social law that states that opposites attract was especially true in this instance. Jonathon balanced out Jerry's shy reluctance with a bold enthusiasm for adventure, but probably stayed out of trouble more often than he would have without Jerry.
On this night, they decided to sneak out of Jerry's house, where Jonathon was spending the night, purely for lustful exploration. Of course, the rumors had clouded around Old Man Meyer's house for years. A grand hermit, he was rarely seen, and never regarded in such a situation. The boys were thrilled, to say the least.
Tying the sheets together, they flew to the ground below the two-story bedroom window.
“You think we'll get caught, Jonny?”
“We will if you keep openin' your mouth like that.”
“It's okay. Just be careful.”
It was terribly long and awfully treacherous making their way to the back door of the mansion. The moon watched the boys creep past all three blocks. When Jon finally jimmied the back window, Jerry swallowed out loud, asked Mrs. Meyer for forgiveness, and then proceeded.
A great, gaping monster of a house stretched out before them in all threatening directions. A forest's worth of wood, all of it old as the world, paneled out, forming wall after wall, each reaching to an ominous ceiling, caked with dust, visible even in the darkness. Rooms and rooms and rooms lurched ahead, painted morose by fear and moonlight. It was a mansion, alright – complete with mysterious creaks and fluttering shadows. Jonathon gasped.
Directly in front of the boys loomed a pale and endless hallway, complimented on each side by a thousand mysterious doors. The room in which they found themselves was a back entry way, decorated with too many dusty old chairs for one dusty old man to sit in. Various desks and table tops decorated the room, and looked as if they hadn't been operated on since their placement there. The mood was made complete by the moon, its light crawling it through the many gaping cracks and useless windows.
This place had long existed in the imaginations of the gentlemen who now perceived it, yet even in the fantastic minds of the children, they did not imagine it so ominously. But now they stood, wary determination and protruding reluctance in hand, ready to face the grand adventure. Although they stood, backs against the very window through which they came, they had already come too far to turn around.
First they passed ballroom. Next they saw indoor garden. Bedroom, bedroom, bathroom, etc., until finally, a guest room caught Jon's eye.
“Hmmm... This looks interesting”
They entered, and on the dresser, they spied two gloriously illuminating golden coins.
Confiscating them both, Jon handed one to Jerry, and spoke without realizing his volume.
“Here, take this. I want you to keep it forever.”
Their voices got away from them.
“Why would I do that? I'd rather sell it! It's probably worth a million dollars!”
“Ah, so what? We're stealing these coins now, but who knows what'll be waiting for us at 13 or 23 or 33? We'll steal these coins together now, and when we grow up, we'll steal the world together.”
At that moment, Old Man Meyer burst into the room in a sleepy fit of rage. Jerry nearly fainted, his first instincts collecting the picture of a ghost in his mind. The boys yelled, then fled, going out the way they came, past the bathroom, past the ballroom, and back into the street. They sweat and they panted every feverish step home. Finally ascending the cloth ladder with treasures in hand, they hid in secluded safety in Jerry's room, no one the wiser.
“You keep that coin, forever, Jerry. You hear?”
It had been a week since the incident, and Jerry Daniel Marks still was not doing any better. In fact he'd gotten worse. In the seven warm days that passed by him, he refused to take even one step outside his apartment. He hid from the sunlight, tightly closing his blinds, allowing no ounce of daylight or human contact in. As hour after hour rolled by, he moved from bed to chair to couch to bed. He flipped on the television, didn't like what he saw, changed the channel. He sustained himself noncommittally on water and chocolate. He felt dead inside, but he would never admit that to himself. He looked in the mirror. Wiped his mouth. Said, I'm doing just fine. Just fine, just fine... He passed out for several hours, woke up on the floor, trying to remember what day it was, trying to discover if it were light or dark, and then eventually gave up. Gradually, a few of the light bulbs burned out, but of course, he never bothered to fix them. Tragedy strikes men in different ways. Jerry Daniel Marks swallowed hard, and stopped thinking about anything. He slowly developed a half-witted theory in his mind, deciding that if he didn't have to think about Jonathon's suicide, he would never have to be sad about it. I'm doing just fine, he told himself. Just fine, just fine. He wasn't just fine, and the more he told himself this, the more he began to fall apart. The more he began to fall apart, the more he began to deny himself and the beasts of emotion caged inside him.
After that first turbulent week, his mother finally came to visit him, having just heard the news herself. She came bearing a chocolate cake as her token of condolence. Overly optimistic and only half rooted into mature adulthood, she could not possibly begin to comprehend her boy's plight. As he opened the door to greet her, he came into contact with his first sunlight in seven days.
“Hey baby... How are you?”
“Fine, mom. Come on in.”
“Oh sweetie, I just barely heard about the incident.”
“Yeah, well... I'm glad you came.”
She stepped into his dingy apartment, observed her surroundings in wide-eyed discomfort, and finally settled onto a ragged couch.
“How have you been holding up?”
“You already asked me that, remember?”
“Oh, okay. I guess so...”
It was clear that Jerry hadn't removed himself from his grungy sanctuary since he'd found out. Clothes, cups, and wrappers decorated the floor, and all was dank.
“I baked you this cake. I know that chocolate is your favorite.”
“Thanks... I'll put it in the fridge...”
“I'm worried about you.”
“Don't be. I'm doing just fine. Just fine, just fine. I figure if I just don't think about it, then it won't hurt so much, you know? And I haven't been.”
“Well, then what have you been doing?”
“This and that. For some reason I feel really tired a lot lately. So the good news is, I've gotten a lot of sleep.” He tried to smile. Tried to fake it, tried to be an optimist, tried so hard. But gave up, and felt rotten instead.
“Listen, sweetie... I can't pretend to know what you're going through right now. I just about dropped the phone when I heard about the incident, and I--”
“Ah, stop calling it that!” he yells at her. “It's not an incident, mom. Just 'cause they're going to write about it in the papers, and show his picture on the TV... It's not an incident, it's a tragedy. 60,000 people will see his face for 10 seconds, and they'll throw it out, and for them, he'll be just another headline, just another story, just another incident! But for me, it's more. He was my best friend, mom.”
“I know he was...” At this point, she had dropped the cake on the floor, and had started weeping into her hands. “I know he was, baby.”
Meanwhile, Jerry rose, and swirled violently around his living room, half-weeping, half-shouting, all the while his voice leaving him. “And now, I don't what to do! As if I had a clue when he was here, now I'm completely lost. He was best friend, and I couldn't fucking save him! Tell me what I'm supposed to do, huh? I can't write his eulogy, because all it'll say is, 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry I couldn't save you. Blame me, blame me, because all I did when you needed help was sit around this grungy apartment and eat chocolate fucking cake!'”
His mother rushed toward him, and buried him in her arms. “This isn't your fault.” Finally, he stopped talking, and gave in completely, wailing in his mother's arms. “This isn't your fault.”
“Oh my God, if I have to sit here and watch this commercial one more time, I think I'm gonna kill myself,” Jerry said jokingly.
“Yeah, yeah, I'm bored too. Daytime television sucks.”
“Well then let's go out and do something. Come on, we're two strapping young 15 year olds, we oughta be able to come up with something. Anything'll be better than wasting time here at your house.”
“Alright... You name it,” Jonathon told him.
“Sure... Anything you want, just tell me.”
“Awesome.” Jerry lit up. “Well, we could go play football.”
“Yeah, but... I think it's way too hot for that.”
“You're right... Let's go swimming then.”
“Jerry... Where are we gonna get the money?”
“Good point. Well... Damn.”
“I've got an idea.”
“Fine, lay it on me.”
In an instant, Jonathon leapt up and bolted to his father's room. Jerry followed hot on his heels, eager to know what splendid idea his mischievous friend had.
“Well you know how we're always trying to keep ourselves a step ahead of everyone else, right? Well what if we took the dive, and did the ultimate thing that all great adults are doing?”
“My dad just bought a new pack, so I doubt he'll notice if a couple are missing.”
“Oh crap, Jon, this sounds like bad news... You wanna start smoking?”
“That's right, baby boy. We'll be the only freshmen next semester puffin' paper.”
It sounded appealing. Jerry had to admit that it sounded appealing. “I don't know...”
“Look, just give it a try. What's the worst that could happen?” He grinned.
If Jerry knew what the worst that could happen was, he probably wouldn't have done it. If he could have fast forwarded ten minutes to see his body's gut-wrenching (literally) reaction to the poison, he may have thought twice. But oh, woe for the boys and their blissful, blind adventure. First Jon lit up, and then Jerry, right there in the room. Jon continued to grin, euphoric at the sheer pleasure of dipping his adolescence into adulthood.
Jerry started coughing first, not so taken with the notion. Jon quickly joined him, and they stood there for a stark minute, hacking out to the master bed and walk-in closet. The room was still and silent, the only air being broken by coughs that morphed themselves into violent wheezing .
Finally, they evacuated, and burst simultaneously into the bathroom. It would have been a sight to see both bobbing heads, spewing their mistakes, certain that death would soon take them. It took ten minutes before they could lay back against the bathroom wall, and form words, not punctured by smoke-flavored hiccups.
Jerry said, “Jon... Let's never do that again.” He had only one word in response.
“Listen, Jerry, I really appreciate you're coming over here. I feel like I've just been one big mess since, well, you know... The incident.”
Jerry sighed at his best friend's mother. She'd asked him to come over so he could help plan the funeral. He agreed, although not without a great deal of bitterness, for he very much scorned the man's mother. Finally cleaning and shaving himself for the first time in eight days, he'd trudged over to the house he once played at as a boy. Being her son's best friend, Erica thought it appropriate that Jerry have an integral part in the ceremony, and ironically, she'd asked him to read the eulogy.
“Yeah... It's no problem.”
“You been holdin' up alright?”
He clenched his teeth. Then his fists, his face bursting out in bright red colors. With anguish masked by anger, he regarded the woman with entire accusation.
“I'm fine... What did you want to talk about?”
“Right. Let's get down to business.”
She then surfaced a manila folder, and unsheathed a load of papers, baring flower patterns, seating arrangements, a program outline, etc., and brought it all down on a meant-to-look-vintage wooden desk. Her whole house was filled to the brim with equally gaudy decorations, and Jerry could do no less than loathe every inch. There were a thousand different brand-name symbols for the lady's superficiality. The 18th century-looking grandfather clock, the retro wine-glass vignettes, the plastic “marble” statues – each one was a testament to her zealousness for gaining the approval of strangers, which she always seemed to value more than her son's well-being.
“Why don't you take a look at some of these flower arrangements, and you can tell me which one you think would be most appropriate,” Erica beckoned.
He gazed morbidly at her, before finally answering, “Don't know...”
“Alright... That's okay, I can figure that one out later. I also wanted to ask you what you thought about Jonathon's epitaph. This is what I have: 'Here Lies Jonathon Kyle Vincent – Beloved Son And Friend Of Many. We Will Miss You.'” She paused. “What do you think?”
I think you're a very shallow woman. You're all nice and friendly on the surface, and very good at making everyone think that you care, but you don't. I think you should be in uproar over the death of your son, not worrying about petty details. “That's good,” he said.
“Hey, let me ask you – what happened that night? The night that Jonathon... You know...”
She sighed. “Oh, Jerry, I don't know if I want to talk about it.”
“Tell me, Ms. Vincent. I'd really like to know.”
“Well, if you want to know the truth, I missed him. I hadn't talked to him in weeks, so I called him. I asked him to come over so he could tell me what he thought of my new dress. I was sure he wouldn't come if I merely asked him to. He always had work to do, and places to be, and even that night, I had to plead with him. I told him about my date with Jack Earnshaw, and asked him if he thought the dress would look good enough. 'Good enough for what?' he asked me. He was terribly moody. He always resented the fact that I dated. Well anyway, we got into a huge fight. He told me I was a bad mother, said I didn't care, called me bitch. Do you know how bad that hurt me? I miss him,” she sobbed, “but I can at least take comfort in knowing that it wasn't my fault.”
His fixation snapped. “Are you drunk or heartless?” he said vehemently. Eying the room, he muttered, “or both?” It wasn't my fault flashed before him in white-hot letters, and he became lost in anger. “You are a fucking blind woman if you think this is not your fault. This is all your fault! You call me over here so you can ask me silly questions about some silly ceremony that I believe you're using only as an excuse to wear your new dress. Jon Vincent was everything to me. I wish the voice of God would have asked me to hang in his place, because I would have in a heartbeat! I loved him, Ms. Vincent, but I couldn't be his mother. Did you take care of him when he skinned his knees, or did you laugh it off from behind your wine glass? Did you answer him when asked for help, or did you scoff from behind your black dress?” She rose and crossed to the other side of the room, swearing under her breath. “Just so we're clear,” he continued, “I think you're a joke of a mother, and I blame you entirely for this.”
.Jerry stormed out, and left Erica on fire.
“Looks like rain,” Jerry said to his friend. Only silence from the passenger seat. “It's hardly ever overcast here – it's a nice change of pace.” Jonathon's head remained propped on his hands, looking out the window, letting the breeze, laced with drizzle, kiss his face and regenerate his spirit. “You wanna talk about it, man?”
“I just think that if you talked it about it, things might--”
“My mom's fucking crazy, that's all. She's unbelievable.”
“What happened?” Jerry clicked on his blinker, then turned left.
“Well, you know how my dad's still overseas, right?”
“I told my mom that after I graduated this year, I would join the military so I could go help him fight, and she flipped. It's ridiculous, Jer. He's my hero for staying – he's placing himself unnecessarily in that bloody and broken environment, fighting with his hands, because he actually believes in something.”
Jerry nodded his head.
“Since when has anyone in this beautiful, boring town of 60,000 ever believed in anything enough that they would risk their lives for it? When have you or I ever felt so passionate, we were willing to give up everything? Fucking never.”
“And your mom just doesn't get it, huh?”
He scoffed. “What a self-absorbed victim she is. Too busy with her fashion magazines and home décor to understand that I actually want to color my life with something. I'm living in black and white.”
Finally, he halted the car in front of the grassy knoll. “I'm sorry, buddy. But I'm here for you, and I think you should go for it. Who cares what your mom thinks anyways, huh? She's just insane 'cause she doesn't know any better – she's lived in this shrunken town her whole life, and can't understand what it looks like that someone wants to leave. It won't matter when you're eighteen anyway, right?”
He sighed as he got out of the car, trudging toward the green hill, nearly collapsing onto it. “Right.”
Both boys laid there all night, contemplating that which was in store for them in the future. If only they knew better. Sunset lapsed into nighttime, the sky lit by endless clouds, and it never did rain.
“Oh my God, Jerry, you're never gonna believe what she told me tonight.”
“Uh-oh. I'm not sure I want to hear it.”
They leaned against the bar, Jonathon with his face in his hands. He cleared his throat. Jerry sipped his beer.
“She said she's tired of waiting. She told me she has a date tonight, and that until my father comes home from the war, she's wearing her ring on a different finger.” He blew out hard. The night was bitter cold outside the bar. Jerry took another sip to warm himself up.
“That's unbelievable, man. What are you gonna do?”
Jonathon shook his head and licked his lips, his eyes still red. “My father, the valiant hero, had enough gut to go fight for his country... But he didn't have enough to marry a woman with a spine.”
“Well... You were talking of joining him overseas. Do you ever think about that anymore?” Jerry didn't have to try hard to talk over the faded radio.
“I was just fooling myself. Statistically, the chance of ending up where he's at is close to none, and even if I did go over, you know me. I'm not a fighter. They'd kill me before I even got to say hello.”
“Well just hang in there, alright? Your mom may be crazy, but there's still people who love you. And I know you haven't seen your dad in a while, but that's because he's fighting for your safety. He'll be home soon, you just have to wait. In the meantime, I'm here for you, buddy. Just believe that everything's gonna be okay...” Jonathon barely moved his head, keeping a steady gaze at the bar. “Okay?”
The funeral passed by insincerely. The crowds poured into the cemetery, settling around the debt-induced casket and strategically placed bouquets of red roses. A priest that neither Jerry, nor Jonathon had never met, stood at the podium, divulging from a script, all of the man's finer qualities, and why he deserved to be missed. When the time came, Jerry gave his speech. It was dry, just like the eyes of the crowd.
Jerry was hardly angry at this point, although he maintained bitterness. He'd spent little time on his eulogy, knowing that the real words, the ones that had to be said, could not occur at the sacredness of a burial. Jerry now cared less about the ridiculousness of Erica, or the fleeting attempts of his own mother. He only wanted his friend back.
Jonathon Kyle Vincent was buried properly on October 29th, 2007, exactly five weeks after his death. The stranger priest muttered words of prayer as his 23-year old body descended into the ground. Then the hole was covered up again, the headstone set in place, and that was that.
After the crowds departed, each heading back to Erica's house for music and drinks (a reception of sorts), Jerry alone hung around the graveyard to be alone with his friend. The fold-up chairs had all been packed away, same as the podium and microphone, stored with the departing funeral directors. Jerry did not say anything as he laid on the freshly packed dirt. He only wept. Finally, as the stars unsheathed themselves, dusk spilling into the night, Jerry got up, looked at the ground and said, “I would give anything, you know. I would give my life to go back and save you.”
Jerry arrived at the reception, late and distraught. Couples sat drinking water or scotch, listening to morbidly uplifting music. The man scorned Erica for trying to cheer everyone up during such a dismal time.
He had decided earlier that he would save his true speech for this event. He was nervous, but he proceeded in spite, knowing that his passed friend had a message. Since it had become stingingly clear that Jerry could do nothing to bring Jonathon back, that no amount of bargaining would make things alright, he decided to bargain with the masses instead – to see if he couldn't shed light into their blind lives. He cleared his throat, then mounted a chair with drink in hand.
“Excuse me, ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to make a toast. I think it's great that we can all be gathered here to mourn the loss of our dear friend. I've missed him terribly these last few weeks...
“You know, I've been sleeping a lot lately. I feel like it's all I ever do anymore – either that, or I've bent my mind on some trendy new substance. Ladies and gentlemen, I have gotten very drunk, very many times since Jon's death last month, and the reason I'm telling you all this in such tasteless vulgarity, is to expose what this life is really like. The reason that we're all here, interacting so fluidly with each other, is because the of the implied social norms that align us to each other. Class and manners, and the ability to talk quicker and more potent that someone else are tools that we use to inflate the ego and gain social superiority, and if you want to know the truth, I actually think it is trash that we are all here in our suits and ties with our cocktails, talking quick and potent about someone who is never coming back. When Jonathon Kyle Vincent hung himself on September 23rd, 2007, it threw a kink in the curve of my entire world. It broke my rhyme and reason wide open.
“So I don't give a damn about your class and manners, and I don't give a damn about your social norms, because the truth is, this life is too chaotic for us to pretend that we have control. If you all feel the need to continue a guided reception just so you can know you're governing something, so be it. But realize that the purpose behind it, the loss of Planet Earth's boldest man, is a random flutter, and a summation of millions of unkempt moments preceding it. Rhyme and reason don't exist, and that is why I think you people are ridiculous.
“I mean, what causes a man to feel so empty inside? What causes a man to feel like there is no way out? A lack of love perhaps, but I think it is the overwhelming flaw in the order of this societal existence, which collided with him – collided with a man that actually did have it all figured out. Most men don't wreck into this phase until they've wasted their lives in offices, having gone too far into their careers to turn back and be validated by the carelessness they once knew, but Jonathon... Jonathon was an advanced individual – too far developed and able to recognize the atrocities of the day-to-day. He was a victim of his mind. He was a victim of everything that is so sad, and so wrong with the American dream. He died alone. He died in his endless pursuit to find meaning. You must recognize that all of everything made sense in his head, and I know this, because I resided there most of the time. Jonathon had a message, but his voice wasn't loud enough. He couldn't scream over all of you and your thoughtless means of indulgence, so he took his life instead, hoping that it would be enough to convince you all of this: the things that you do in this life... They matter, and we as humans have the potential to restore this battered planet to its original habits of order. We as humans can give ourselves meaning, by fighting for, and believing in something. This hopeless town of 60,000 is without color, without volume, without a reasonable motive for existing. His escapes were halted by those too threatened by his ambition. This place isn't the Garden of fucking of Eden – it's worth leaving, and maybe he didn't have the voice of God pulling him out of here, but he had the winds of change, begging with him, pleading with him to restore the world, and bestow his message. It is not his fault that he took his own life. All of everything sounded good inside his mind, yet he tried and failed to project his rhyme and reason onto a world emersed in a chaos that feels too good to quit. Too good, too good to quit. Well he did. Jonathon Kyle Vincent did quit, realizing that the game was too absurd to play... So it's not his fault...”
Here he paused, resuming the normal identity.
“Life is funny. We meet these incredible people, invest ourselves in them, let them change our lives, and then they're gone. If I could, I'd go back to each incredible moment to savor it, and each awful moment to be there for him. Cheers, Jonathon... Let's get fucked up.”
He kept calling, but to no answer. Jerry sped fast through the threatening rain, certain that something had gone wrong. After two people have know each other for a long time, grown so parallel in spirit, they tend to develop a sense of knowing – knowing when one is distraught, knowing when all is not as it should be.
Over the past couple years, Jonathon's spirit had degraded further. With every day, he was increasingly upset about the war, about his father, about his mother – unable, in spite of livid desire, to control the world around him. Although they maintained communication through brief phone calls and letters, Jonathon hadn't seen his father face to face in six years.
Two hours prior, the boys had been sitting inside their favorite pub, taking shelter from the weather, taking warmth in their drinks, leaning against the bar. Neither of them said a word. Jonathon probably should not have driven that night. Yet in response to his mother's phone call, he bounded out, keys in hand and beer in belly to go meet her.
“Everything alright?” Jerry had asked of his friend.
And he responded, “I don't know, man. Hard to say.”
With that, he left.
Two hours later, Jerry knew, through and through, that something was wrong, and yet the man would not answer his phone. It was a vulgar storm that found Jerry pounding at Erica's door. Tear-stained, she answered.
“Hey, Ms. Vincent. I couldn't get a hold of Jon – just wanted to make sure everything's alright.”
“Everything's fine, Jerry.”
“Is he here?”
“He's upstairs, in his old room.”
“Can I see him?”
“He's not taking any visitors right now.”
“Please? I'd love to just say hi.”
It was as if they were kids once again. Jerry, in a moment of brutal innocence, only wanted to see his friend, to tell him that everything was okay. Yet his mother would not let him to out play.
“Sorry, Jer. Try coming back tomorrow.”
“Fine...” He raised his hands above his head. “Will you at least just tell him I stopped by?”
Embracing the downpour, Jerry turned slowly, and walked away.
His bitter sentiment to the sour crowd were the last words he spoke for a while. Immediately following his grand toast, Jerry Daniel Marks became a ghost. No more than a face above a body that wore suits to receptions and morbidity to bed. Everything became surreal. He traveled without moving, and his feet moved him, instead of the other way around. His fingers were broken; his body was broken, and his surroundings certainly made everything more dramatic. As second by second dripped by, he slipped and he slipped through depressing environments, the walls studded with jagged memories. He sometimes drew a smile on his face with marker, standing in front of the mirror: a petty amusement before entering the shower, where he would spend long, dreadful hours; and the seconds slipped and slipped and slipped...
He battered himself terribly, both inside and out. He warped his mind – he wrapped his mind around the final words his best friend heard him say. Everything alright? Everything alright? Mediocre. Bland. Heartless. Nothing. Nothing was alright. When his mother called, he did not answer, and when Erica did not call, he was glad.
These unrelenting moments were ghastly different to the ones immediately following his conception of the news. In the original hours of the tragedy, he became mindless, selling his conscious thought to demons of denial and idling in exchange for empty calm. Those beginning moments were thoughtless. These were surreal. In these, he was grudgingly aware of his mind, afraid of its descent. The worst part became his helplessness. His hopelessness. He was all alone.
Jerry Daniel Marks had reached the end of one rope.
And so found solace at the start of another.
The Meyers Mansion had long been abandoned, ever since the Old Man had croaked years before, his death no more than a flutter in the shadows that concealed him – a whim of the chaos of Planet Earth. His death no more than mere drops of dust on the souls and consciences of his hometown of approximately 60,000.
One particularly dreadful evening, when the moon shone too stark, too stark through his bedroom blinds, Jerry wiped his eyes, and closed the front door behind him. The villainous moon watched him creep past every block to the old, dusty house. He didn't go alone. He had a new companion in his right hand. His right hand, not to be confused with his left – both were once his best friends, but now they conspired against him.
Of course, the aged door of the mansion would have yielded him, but he chose his familiar entrance instead. A fresh ghost breaking and entering into the dwelling of an old ghost, and yet he felt convinced that the shadows of this sepulcher would twitter and flinch, claiming him as well, leaving mere drops of dust on the hollow tranquility of the 60,000 souls and citizens of his hometown.
He made his way past ballroom, bathroom, bedroom, etc., until he arrived at the guest bedroom – the glint of gold now replaced by indifference and dust.
Jerry missed his original friend – the one he admired and blessed daily and nightly.
He recalled the thousand conversations they had had regarding the future – which ambitions would lead them where, what problems they thought they could handle. In the end, each talk always ended the same. Fuck it. We'll face it head on. I'll follow you. You follow me.
Jerry stood in the waning room, beneath failing beams of moonlight, rope in hand – ready. Ready to follow his friend.
This is it, Jon. This is it.
He stepped up. Then leaped.
Hacking. Gagging. Severe seconds. His feet ached for the floor. He gasped. It echoed through the room, disturbing the dust, bringing it to life.
This is it, Jon. This is it.
White knuckles clutched the rope. He battered wildly in the air.
This is it.
And then he fell.
His body hit the ground, and he saw his friend's face. He gasped out loud. The marks around his neck deepened and stung. He wept.
This is it, Jon.
Jerry played with the blades of grass between his fingers. The sunlight was broken into shards by the surrounding, leafless trees. The shards mildly distorted his vision, but for the first time in a long time, he could see clearly. What he saw was a gravestone that actually looked decent. And now he sat beneath a bitter, blue sky, aching from the night before, aching for the day ahead. And the more he exhaled, the more he twiddled the tiny green needles.
“It's been a rough couple months, you know that, Jon?” Birds chirped weak out in some vague distance, as if mindless ambiance, separate from a tangible existence. Jerry had felt like mere ambiance for a long time. But now he spoke words, projected by conscious thought. The sun burned the back of his neck. “It's odd, you know, I just felt like... Like you were so much a part of me that when you died, I had to do the same. I almost did. But I'm not gonna let that happen.”
The day was Sunday, and he'd just come from church with his mother. Skepticism about both still flared like broken shards of sun in his logic, but at least now, he'd accepted what fate had dealt him. He'd conversed with his mother. He'd conversed with his God, when before he'd refused.
“This'll be the hardest thing I've ever done, Jon. I was so mad at you for so long for doing this to me. I couldn't understand why you would've crushed me like that, but I think I get it now.” He looked up, thinking perhaps that his friend might be able to hear him more directly. “You just couldn't exist in a world that wouldn't have you. You traveled in shapes, passing people doomed to a straight line. I can't say I blame you for leaving. I almost wish I could too.”
Jonathon Kyle Vincent hung himself in his mother's basement on September 23rd, 2007, between deceptive summer and weary autumn. Many regarded his death as a failure – a failure to endure the demons and days in his small town of 60,000. Concrete reasoning had given way to a billion ambiguous ideas, and now no one was quite sure exactly why Mr. Vincent had taken his life that Saturday night. Jerry was his only friend. His best friend. His counterpart, and here he sat on the bed of dirt and grass that would forever keep his friend from going to late-night diners or reaching for blue skies or stealing the world, and he shuddered in the cold haunt of autumn.
He unsheathed a solid gold coin, and let it dance on his fingers. He played with it for several silent moments. Then he accidentally dropped it. He blew out deep. Then blinked his eyes. Jerry picked up the coin, and then rose to his feet.
“Don't worry.” And he looked up at the sky. “I'll still steal the world for you, Jon.”