Fiction Series: Chuckle - Part 7
"So it's just a habit?" The therapist asks. I nod again.
"Yes," I say. "A ritual, even."
"To sit on your floor with a .45 and a full bottle of scotch and just... cry it out." The therapist reaches for a pen and paper. I glare at his hands. He stops.
"Yeah, no notes." I shake my head.
"Right, sorry. It's a force of habit, to write or record. I have to say, your ritual is concerning."
"Well, I swept the room. No recording devices. And, I mean, it works." The therapist's eyes widen.
"How many times have you done this?"
"Seven or eight? This year?"
"How long have you been dealing with your condition?"
"Since I was about sixteen. It used to be really fucked up back then."
"Did something happen to trigger this? Or did it just happen on its own?"
Eight Years Earlier...
"She said leave it alone," Earl said. "We have to leave it alone. Devin." I scowled.
"You know what I'm gonna say," I said. "I don't trust him, and I don't fucking like him."
"She's happy," Earl said. I shook my head.
"You really think so?" I asked.
"That's what she says. She's back to smiling again, at least."
"Maybe when we're around. I don't like the feel."
"You don't like anything. You've been on edge about that since Dad passed. And we get it. But life goes on. She deserves to move on and be happy. You don't have to like anyone she dates. Lord knows you haven't yet." I stared through Earl as Isabel approached.
"Hey," she said, waving to Earl and sitting on my lap. Instead of giving her a kiss, I buried my right hand in her floppy afro and started rubbing. She briefly looked in my eyes and her facial expression softened. "What's wrong?"
"He's back at it again," Earl said. Isabel sighed wearily and leaned back into my chest. "So how was your eighteenth?" The passing weekend made her two full years older than me.
"It was very chill and mellow," Isabel said. "Your brother makes a pretty solid date."
"It only took what, four months to decide that?" Earl chuckled.
"Five months, seventeen days, four hours," I recited.
"Just 'pretty solid' as a boyfriend?" Earl asked mockingly. "Hell, I'm better than that. And I'm older."
"And yet, less mature," I said. A vein in my forehead pulsated a bit.
"No, he's an outstanding boyfriend," Isabel said. "Just a solid date, though. Wanting to fight people for looking at my butt is distracting and not that sexy." I raised my eyebrows.
"But I won though," I said.
"You're better at the winning than the fighting," she said. I shrugged.
“Who cares about the fighting when you win?” I asked.
"Not good," I say. "You really need to write that badly, huh."
"I've been writing while people talk for more than half my life," The therapist says. "I've been on school newspapers and the like since junior high."
"I see," I say. "But yeah, it was pretty heavy. I was a very angry child. My father was killed in an accident when I was young, and we'd had a nasty argument right before. It never... sat well with me that I couldn't make my peace."
"Oh," The therapist says, surprised. "I'm so sorry to hear that."
"Life," I say. "I kinda spent my twenty third year on this earth reconciling a lot of stuff. It's a work in progress." I shift on the couch, resisting the urge to lay down for a bit.
"How was that for you?" The therapist asks. I think for a moment.
"It was okay," I say. "I think it would've been a little bit better if I'd spent more time reflecting and a bit less time traveling and shooting people, but eh."
"Is that something you want to talk about as well?" He asks.
"Not really," I say. "I'm mostly okay with stuff like that. I think. And isn't your hour close to up?"
"There's no need to worry about that. My schedule is open. I’ve always been curious about how people in, ahem, your line of work, reconcile what they do.”
“I take some solace in knowing I do a job very well that most people can’t handle without dying.”
“Does it ever bother you?”
“Not really. When you get as deep as I do, nobody’s clean.”
“Now the guys who are mercenaries and stuff? Razing villages for diamonds and shit? I could never roll like that.”
“Ah, noted.” The therapist scratches his hands a little bit.
“But I suppose we should get back to the bad old days. Maybe fast forward five months."
(almost) Eight Years Earlier...
I shifted the bag on my shoulder. I contemplated getting up from the park bench and going back home to the calamity. I also contemplated asking Isabel if I could spend another night at her place. 'Mmhmm,' I could imagine her saying nonchalantly. I bit my lip and flipped open the phone. I sent the text and flipped it shut. I opened the phone to send another text when it rang. Isabel. I pressed the button. "Hey you," I said.
"Hey, yourself," she said. "What's going on?"
"I think it's best if I stay away for a while," I said. "I... I just don't like what's going on. It's a lot."
"Well, you can stay with me for as long as you need," she said. "My suitemates like you."
"Really?" I asked. "I thought I was being a nuisance."
"You're quiet and neat," she said. "And you roll really good joints."
"True," I chuckled. I stared into the sunset for a bit. "I'll see you soon."
* * *
I walked up to the front door. I had a half-day and needed clean clothes. Hopefully everyone was at work, and Earl was elsewhere. Or whatever. I could do a quick wash and go without running into anyone. I unlocked the door and walked in, closing it behind me. I took a look around. My knees buckled.