"They say you always hurt the ones you love."
I open my eyes with a start, momentarily confused. Not just about the statement, but about everything: where I'm at, what time it is, who I am. I look around the room, but it isn't much help. Dim light, an unrecognizable couch, off-white apartment carpet with various stains, liquor bottles drunk tipped on a cheap coffee table.
"Or is it 'you only hurt the ones you love?'"
I turn towards the voice and see the girl sitting beside me. She's disheveled, either just fucked or recovering from a crying jag. I still have my pants on, which is good. Or not. It's hard to say, times like this.
"I don't know what they say," I tell her, "But I don't think you only hurt the ones you love. You do it right, you hurt plenty of people you hate."
She tips her beer bottle, and you can tell just by looking at it that it's lukewarm and flat as piss. It doesn't stop her form taking a few swigs, though.
"You shouldn't hurt anyone."
"Bullshit," I say. "People weren't meant to hurt each other, we wouldn't be so good at it."
"You're a very negative person."
"I know." I'm starting to remember. It's Thursday. This thing--I wouldn't exactly call it a party; more of a celebration of self-destruction--started at one this afternoon. I have no idea what time it is, now, but one in the afternoon was a world ago.
We're in the depths of the night, now. All the sane people have gone home, and the stragglers are the ones who can't function enough to convince themselves that they can drive, or can't bring themselves to face a lonely apartment until their demons have been bourbon burned from the deepest recesses of their brains.
Technically, I'm home, so I'm excused from the desperation these other losers are suffering with.
I taste vomit in my mouth and wonder if it's because I already threw up, or if it's because I'm about to.
"You should work on that," she says.
"I work on it damn near every day. I've almost got it perfected."
"You ever think about killing yourself?"
I look around for a bottle. I can't imagine I'd be sitting next to someone like this without one handy. Sure enough, it's on the floor under my leg.
Vodka. Warm. Gross.
I unscrew the cap and take a couple of slugs. It's nice to get the vomit taste out of my mouth, but it's unfortunate that it's been replaced with the taste of chemical waste.
I can't find my cigarettes, but I do find a lighter, and there's a half-smoked butt in the ashtray, so I fish it out and light it up. It tastes like charred asshole, but it's still a step up from the bottom shelf vodka.
I'm about to pass out again when she pushes against my arm. I look over and see that she's glaring at me through alcohol-squinted eyes.
"You didn't answer my question."
"My question. I asked you a question."
"So have you?"
"Have I what?"
"Thought about killing yourself."
"Did we have sex?" I ask her.
"Are we going to?"
"Maybe. I don't know. Depends on if you answer my question."
I snuff the remains of the secondhand cigarette out in the ashtray. "No it doesn't."
"No. It doesn't."
"You, what, got in a fight with your boyfriend? You got invited out by a friend, had a few too many drinks, and now you're here. You're asking about suicide, like you need justification, or some shit. I don't know, man. Have I thought about killing myself? I try not to, because I'm doing it every day. It's just like when you first start exercising: better not to think about the end, because you'll get overwhelmed. Just take it one step at a time."
"Death is a lifestyle, no need to rush it." I take another couple drinks of vodka and start fingering through the ashtray, looking for something I can get a couple puffs out of.
"You don't have to be a dick."
"And you don't have to be a whiny, attention-seeking pissbaby. Yet, here we are."
She slaps me, and I see my pack of cigarettes under her leg. I grab them and offer her one. She accepts, and I lean back against the wall.
"Why are you so mean?" She asks.
"I really don't know. I'm good at it."
"That's not really an answer. You've been a dick all night, but at least you haven't dodged. Why start now?"
"I don't even remember talking to you until about three minutes ago."
"Well, you did."
I smoke most of my cigarette before I talk again. "Being nice, it's so...tiresome. There's so much falsity, there's so much calculation. What does this person need, how can I best give it to them, what words should I use, with what inflection? You can say the wrong thing at the wrong time; you seem fake if you're too eager, callous if you're not eager enough. But 'being mean,' as you put it? You just are. It's communication simplified."
"But you hurt people."
"Then they shouldn't be talking to me in the first place."
"And then what?"
"And then what, what? They wouldn't talk to me, problem solved. It would get me out of bullshit like what we're going through, right now."
"You don't like talking to me?"
"I guess not."
"What if I was your mom? Or your sister?"
"I would throw up. I've been imagining having some pretty dirty sex with you."
"I mean would you treat them so disrespectfully?"
"I pissed on my mom's grave one time when I was drunk and talking to her tombstone. I was asking why she let all her boyfriends abuse me, and I just couldn't help myself."
"Are you serious?"
"No. That'd be weird, though, huh?" I stand up. It's a process, and not a graceful one. "Look, good talk. I'm gonna go to bed now. Do me a favor and don't steal anything."
"This girl I worked with killed herself."
"Smart move on her part, really," I say, making my way towards my room.
"She used to date you."
"Then killing herself was definitely the smart move."
"You're worse than she described. I came here hoping for...I don't know what. A reason to forgive you, maybe? To prove that you weren't the monster I was expecting. But there's really nothing good about you."
"No," I say, stopping my drunken journey and looking back at her. "There isn't. If it makes you feel any better, I'll be dead someday."
"What would make me feel better is killing you in your sleep."
I stare at her for a few seconds, trying to figure out if she's serious. I decide I don't care. "I think that would make everyone feel better."
I continue on to my bedroom and fall onto the laundry-covered bed.
I wake briefly when I smell something burning from the front of my apartment, and I contemplate investigating. Instead, I roll into a more comfortable position and go back to sleep.
Posted under Short Stories on 1/09/16