What follows is an older one of my tales, originally published by Negative Suck in November 2011. The publication eventually went dark, and the rights of this story returned to me. For awhile, I sat on the story and more or less placed it in the "trunk."
Recently, I brought the story back out and reread it. I'm not completely sure how I feel about it, but I am re-releasing the story "Reassurance, or the Evolution of a Pessimist." It's a rather dark tale involving razor blades, promise rings, and psychological masochism.
HOW THIS STORY CAME ABOUT
I had an instructor from Ball State challenge his students, including me, to write a story based on some kind of formula, such as including the first three of something you saw. My challenge was to work the first 3 advertisements I saw on facebook into a narrative. The first 3 ads I came across were for wrestling rings, promise rings, and an ad for a dating app.
So, if you're into strange, experimental fiction, keep reading below. But don't say I didn't warn you.
originally published by Negative Suck (Nov. '11)
Under a dim light above the breakfast table in my cave-like apartment, the folded razor blade glows. Under proper use, you must make a certain device for a cleaner cut. You should buy an old-school generic razorblade, say from Lowes, and bend it in half, and if you can, half again. Professional wrestlers used to do the same thing to cause those exaggerated blood pours. There's a section of your forehead, just above your eyebrow, that will flow like the Niagara and heal up within the next day or two. I used to find spots on my arm that did the same thing when I was in high school.
However, on this night, I'm going for the kill. We all get these thoughts from time to time, don't we? There's a point when you realize all you loved leaves and all you fought for—your career, schooling, house, engagement rings and wedding bands with bright rocks comparable to the moonlight—amounts to zilch. If heaven's nonexistent, your pain is for naught and you'll spend decades as maggot grub.
And you just want to jump the gun sometimes.
Then something unusual happens.
In my case, the blades runs along the river of my blue vein, a dishrag gags my mouth, and she's walks in, towering over me her black and pink hair glowing in the darkness. Eyes like blue sapphires.
She sits down next to you and smiles. Her hand doesn't slip the make-shift slicer out of your hand. No, she covers your vein instead, feels along your wrists. And she speaks in a low, seductive voice, “You have really smooth skin. You shouldn't ruin it.”
Her hand traces your arm; touches your shoulder. You drop the blade to your side. Remove the gag that still tastes like Palmolive.
“Who are you?” I ask. And I swim into her deep blue eyes again.
Her lips are soft and pouty and massage your mouth every time you kiss. I'm sorry about using the second person, but you need to see things from a closer point of view sometimes. Anyway.
Running my hand through her smooth hair, I just want to pull. And soon enough, you've been dating over a month and you're doing so. Although you've been making love since day one. For once, though, it's about feeling close and intimate and not just about sex.
It's a Tuesday—none in particular. You're out sipping coffee, waiting for your movie to start.
“You're amazing,” she says into my ear. And then fully-automatic, she blasts your heart with a thousand bullet-sized shrapnel of affection. Your skin smooth, your lips curved to fit each other's, your hands, your eyes, your scent, your neck, your humor, your doubts, your everything else, but not limited to just everything else.
Tomorrow the list will grow. And the next day.
“I'm so incredibly happy with you,” I say. “I'm afraid this won't last.”
“It will,” she assures, and I believe her. “No matter what hits us, I promise.”
And we lock pinkies.
“I hate promise rings,” I tell her a week later. “They're usually a sign of insecurity. They're like a promise for failure. Engagement rings are promises to be together forever. What good are they if they need a promise too?”
She nods, but part of her disagrees. Her eyes drift to the side. Her smiles drags.
But she sort of agrees to humor me. “Yeah, I can see that,” she says.
The rings on the way and I have this perfect notion of asking her, not to marry me, but to stay with me for eternity. Life is composed of priceless moments that provide us with either hope or despair. Never one or the other; always both. And over time, we feel compelled the share them with someone, the good and the ugly. We're all going to die someday, so it doesn't matter, really, if we have personal unity. I just don't want to die alone--the pack-animal mentality of the human condition.
She's provided me with more positive moments, within less than five months, than I've ever encountered my entire existence.
During such moments, you can recall everything, as if life became still-framed for a few seconds at a time, as though love could add years to your life--happy years--in the form of seconds. I'm a thousand years old and ecstatic, though I don't express it well.
But she believes in what I fear--that, the few moments of despair overshadow any singular, positive moment. The kind of observances that make you walk out on someone, only until you've recalled everything you admired about the lost loved one. And it's too late then.
You call yourself stupid. You say you're sorry. But “stupid” is the superior adjective to “amorous”, and nowhere in any dictionary is “sorry” defined as “correction”. If you're apologizing, just fix the goddamn mistake. A synonym for “sorry” should be “hurt” or the definition of psychological masochism.
“I'm sorry,” she says, “I just need to figure things out.”
Her voice echoes across the pond you brought her to for the sake of giving her the same tangible form of commitment that you fucking despised just a few months ago.
I say, “No, it's ok.”
It's not, I think.
“I understand,” I say.
“I promise I'll come back to you. You're perfect for me and we'll be together in the end.”
Maybe at a cemetery.
So many questions race through the crumbling highways of your mind, colliding with other drunken thoughts. Wreck, wreck, wreck. Death, pain, or regret. You've hopped on I-silence and missed the exit to hope. You can't pull over on a cold shoulder.
And you wait for her to return. Trust the next exit, perhaps?
How far can you skip a promise ring across a pond?
And you wait.
You could probably bend a promise ring to a point, if it's a weaker metal. You bought her white gold.
We all wait, because we hope we're all wrong. Reassurance skipped across the pond three times before sinking to shallow depths, only to erode and deteriorate over time, like you and like me.
Fear, focus, and the future. C.M. Humphries talks about writing, horror, and whatever.