Antescriptum : French rap. Enter Carlos.
Dedicated to a very special friend. Enjoy.
Chapter 3 : Solaar pleure
The sky to the East was getting lighter, behind the Manhattan skyline. Both of them sat there, on dark-green garden chairs of plastic, waiting for the first amber rays of the rising sun on the rooftop of the twenty-five-ish story building in which Carlos lived. They were holding hands.
He let go, and straightened or stretched himself. He exhaled deeply in satisfaction. He picked an item in his pocket, one behind his ear. He put the second one in his mouth, the first one made its idiosyncratic “Tchik. Tchik.” as it ignited the other. He puffed a long, fulfilling drag, analyzing his surroundings as he held his breath. It was quite gray, the whole of it. This city, when you saw it from atop, just before its wake. He let out the smoke. Breathed a little. Then puffed again.
After three or four such movements, he handed it to the girl. She bent to take it. Carlos looked at her pretty blonde face and realized something which upset him.
He had felt alone as soon as he had let go of her hand – let go to light his joint. The spiritual seclusion he experienced when smoking marijuana had become such a habit he had lost the one person he shared his intimacy with most often – in a single breath of smoke. And he stared at her, as if from a distance.
Suddenly, he wasn’t looking at her anymore. He was thinking about their relationship, and couldn’t even glance at her as he did so : he feared she would know what he was thinking through his expression.
Carlos knew she was out of his league. A pretty, sporty, sexual and elegant girl like her had nothing to do with him. He showcased a confident and humorous persona, but deep down, what best described him was : intelligent, fearful and cautious. An introverted analyst who never took people in, mostly because of a cautious, almost hateful fear of getting hurt. He was starting to really like her though. They’d been flirting for a few months at different parties, had hooked up a once or twice, and had been “going out” ever since that erectile dysfunction five or six weeks before. She was great in bed, great at what she did, everyone loved her and respected her, and she hadn’t asked to make their “relationship status” Facebook official.
He felt constantly exhausted by pseudo-bros, dumb bitches and shallow lives.
Him, he was a fool. And not the Shakespearean kind. No “witty repartay”. He was there to make people laugh or be made fun of.
He really liked her, but something inside him made him feel like perhaps… he wasn’t allowed ?
“Oh.” He exclaimed as he noticed she was handing him the joint. He leaned to take it, and took a drag. And just as he was enjoying the soft rise of the buzz in his head, and started anew his mundane observation of the New York City skyline, she asked :
“Carlos ? What are we ?”
Fuck. He thought.
“I mean, what does this relationship mean to you ?”
FuckfuckfuckfuckFUCK. To think he was just beginning to like her, really like her. He could have opened up, for once. Show her his true vulnerabilities. The little voice inside his head had just started nagging him about it. If only he had had the time – to go his pace… But she just had to come and ruin it all.
“Carlos ! Answer me. What am I to you ?”
A thoughtful sigh and “… I dunno.” was all he could manage.
“… What ? What do you mean you don’t know ?” The overemphasis on the last word betrayed a pent-up frustration she had been aching to shed, and was about to burst open. Anyone could blame the girl for what was about to happen, but Carlos was certainly also at fault, in this case, at least for not taking care of the matter earlier on.
“C’m’on Stacy… We’re both high as fuck, can’t we just enjoy the sunlight and talk about this later ?”
“UGH ! It’s always the same thing with you Carlos ! Later ! What am I supposed to do ?”
“I don’t know ! But I do know that speaking about this sober is a better idea than speaking about this now.”
“Sober ?! When are you ever sober ? You are always fucking high !” Each word sounded more and more acid with each comment, and frustration was turning into exasperation, would become anger, would end as rage. “I seriously don’t know what the fuck I’m doing here. What do you want, Carlos ? Tell me, what am I doing here ?”
“I told you, I don’t – know ! These are difficult things to express, and the weed is not helping ! I’m not used to committed relationships !”
And as the words left his mouth, he knew he should have phrased it another way. There is a particular brand of women, perhaps a majority, which will take only the emotional input of a conversation, and look only at the bad side of a reply. Stacy could have been understanding, put herself in Carlos’s place and perceived how hard it was for him to admit even the slightest vulnerability, seen his words as they were intended, as a hint of him having deep feelings for her, but she was past understanding – and like most other introverts, the mask Carlos usually wore and to which she had become accustomed made his true nature incomprehensible. He was going to be judged as an uncaring player, and he knew it.
“OH, so this is COMMITTED for you ? But, please, express yourself. Tell me, what’s the excuse you can muster up for keeping me around, fucking me every day, and not having the decency of telling me if I can expect you to stop fucking around and perhaps make me feel like I’m not being played with like some random cunt.”
“Your not just some random cunt ! And I didn’t say this was a committed relationship, I just said I wasn’t used to committed relationships ! I just don’t know if I can…” but here Carlos knew it was no use fighting, he knew this type of argument, and knew there was no reasoning through it, so he dismissed his own point, with a simple gesture, and a turn of the head. “Forget it.”
There was a short silence.
“I knew it.”
“Knew what ?” he was starting to lose patience.
“I knew you couldn’t be trusted.”
Carlos was taken aback by the snide statement, and his fuzzy brain whirled to find a moment in their common past which could explain such an accusation. Then something struck him.
“Wait. Is this about your friend Hannah ?” He saw in her gaze something animal pass by. Something devoid of all reason which made him cringe. From that odd, expectant, predator look in her eyes, he knew at the same time that he had hit the right target, and that there were, as in most people, some sides of this girl that one should be wary of at all times ; it is just rare for a person to show these signs of irrationality, even though many people portrayed them, and rare for people to be able to pick up on them. But Carlos knew full well the extent of ordinary people’s insanity…
“Oooh. What about Hannah ?”
“Nothing, Stacy ! I only saw her once : you know that !”
“ “I”don’t know anything.” Her air of false innocence only added to her aura of imperceptible insanity, that kind, so pervasive, so rampant, only visible to the trained eye. “Why did you mention her, then ?”
“Because she’s the only logical explanation to your behavior ! You saw how she was all over me. What did you want me to do ? Tell her to fuck off because she was laughing at my jokes and being flirty ?”
“Oh, I’m sorry you’re such a stud.”
“GODDAMNIT STACY ! YOU KNOW THAT’S NOT WHAT I MEANT ! This is so frustrating…! You’re doing everything you can not to take my side…” as he looked up, he saw her bruised senses, in her almost contemptuous continence, her upright, slightly reclining stance on her seat, and realized with a pinch of regret that he had screamed too loud.
He sighed. “I’m sorry Stacy. I shouldn’t have yelled.” He thought for a second. “What can I do to fix this ?”
“Tell me you’ll stop fucking other women. Tell me I’m your girl, your only girl, and we’ll be fine.”
“But Stacy, I haven’t fucked anyone since th…. since…”
“Since when ?” she asked, with a calm, borderline acid alto voice of clear disbelief.
“Since that night… You know…?” but her frigid face showed only that she wasn’t biting. “Since that night, you know, when I couldn’t… get it up…?” And this was absolutely true. He was without a doubt a “one-girl-man”, even though he didn’t look or act the part. The expression on his face was one of shame and discomfort, which truly conveyed Carlos’s emotions of this memory. All throughout this conversation, Carlos had dropped the act, dropped the fancy words and the playful slang, in a desperate attempt to be true to her, if that meant being able to keep her. And without moving her judgmental gaze from him, she spoke.
“I knew you were full of shit.” and started to rise.
“Stacy wait !”, tried Carlos, as he started to get up too, catching her arm… but the way she shook him off, leaving him trailing behind with a glimpse of profound contempt, told Carlos it was useless. He hadn’t even seen strike three come, and he was out.
So she slammed the door, and he slumped back into his chair with cold shock. He pondered for a moment, wanted to run off after her, thinking maybe if he had revealed a few things, told her of his own insecurities, why he was like he was, the mask he always wore, admit the fear, explain the pain, maybe, maybe he could have made her stay. But he knew from experience : everything had been fucked since the start of the conversation, there was nothing he could have done, she would never have believed anything he said, only a sort of confident certainty right from the start, a “what are we Carlos – boyfriend and girlfriend why” would have worked – maybe – but it was too late.
And how dare she judge him like that ?! She didn’t know shit about him, that smug bitch. No one in this fucking city, not one of his fake, perpetually pissed-drunk worthless “friends” knew what the fuck he had been through. He wanted to run after her and holler that, and everything else, every cigarette-burn scar on his back, as he remembered every excruciating memory available. Rummaging through his old ghosts started to fill him with terror, rage, he wanted to scream, exorcise it all…! But the idea that someone in the building would know that long agonizing “FUUUUUCK !” was his kept Carlos quiet. The biased judgment of yet another base human being was the last thing he wanted. He wallowed in them ; everybody judges, nobody tries to understand.
He thought of her jealousy, that slight insanity amongst Stacy’s many qualities, obviously borne from her own insecurities, which he could have managed if he had noticed it sooner. He thought about her, and felt a pang at how cute and thoughtful and fun she had been. But it was all too late. Much too late.
No, that was a lie, and he knew it. That passing insanity told him more about her than he wished to know. He was hanging on to a tender illusion to which he had grown neurotically attached. Like most human beings, she was unsafe, incapable of critical thought and could grow more dangerous ; or at least, incapable of truly communicating with another soul, because there was no getting her out of her own universe and into someone else’s.
The epitome of uneducated spoiled individualistic trash, always adorned with such a pretty face, and a pretty smile, as if everything was always alright.
As his haunting thoughts pervaded his body, Carlos’s hand fidgeted frantically with his lighter. He needed the smoke, but as he puffed, only the acrid discomfort of ash entered his mouth. His face twisted in disgust. Then, taking one last hopeful look at his joint, he realized it had already become nothing more than an old roach. With this, he felt himself giving up. Nothing could seem to go right. His joint cold and finished. His bag of weed downstairs. The shit icing on his shit cake.
At this point the scream dissolved into him, and Carlos was overtaken by a sort of rancid serenity, and in his stillness, he felt a surge of contempt for existence infuse itself into every fiber of his body.
And he threw his roach away, far away into the amber rays of the morning sun.