There is no great genius without some touch of madness. — Aristotle
There were whispers all around. Why were there whispers? Where was he? What’s he wearing? The walls were white, but in the most uncomfortable of shades; so frozen and analytical like a hospital — was he in a hospital? Still more whispers. But from where?
There he sat, with dazed eyes and gaunt cheeks. His mind was silent and his eyes were glued to a slowly spinning record player in the corner of an empty loft. The music echoed eerily through the clear, sun-lit room; sounds of big band reflected off the blank white walls.
Surrounding him were beautiful paintings, all intricately scattered throughout the room. Yet like a web of misfit toys they sat still, unsuspecting, half-covered in large white tarps that were not necessarily dust ridden, but still far more dreary than intended. The room felt full but somehow leeched of life, a breath of color was hidden in boxes and stored in shelves high above.
He blinked as if forced, holding a stern, contemplative gaze. There was a dull glean that shined in his brown eyes: a reflection of the phonograph perched before him. He watched as the record wobbled and bobbed, continuing round and round, playing an old unforgettable classic that he couldn’t remember the name of. This man wore a blank white tee with dark black joggers that were ripped at the knees. He sat on a bed of black linens and pushed his hair back behind his ears; it was a clean cut wavy brown.
Enjoying the music deeply, he laid back with his fingers crossed, nodding his head in a solemn appreciation. In the narrow moments you focused on his wandering eyes. When the music faded and his vision trailed it was obvious that it wasn’t a depression that weighted him, but this grave hold on life, that shook away all illusions surrounding the notion of life. Something had tainted the mind of this wild haired debonair and for minutes that felt like hours, he sat in silence with those stone cold eyes, looking up blankly at a ceiling akin to a sea of space.
A look around would show the loft to be remarkably minimal, albeit incredibly chic. There were no colors to fill the walls, nor any formal sense of furniture to fill the open floor. Aside from the paintings and his bed, there were only black boxes scattered all over the ground. If you peaked into one, you’d find them filled to the brim with old vinyls, all neatly assorted and organized with care. There was no television either, the only color came from a wall of leather spined books sitting opposite to a windowed balcony; last weeks paper still sat open on the table.
It seemed a common trend for him; in these recent times back he felt content to lie half awake, completely baked, and mildly irritated for days on end. It became some sort of paradise to him, the game of losing himself to the sounds of music and finding himself when the world came knocking once again. Although fortunately for him, ever since he got back to this world there were not many things to call on him, and truth be told, he was content to keep it that way.
Most of the time he felt people were a drag and living, doubly so. Years back he would spend time away from the world in the pools of thought; their endless depth satisfied his insatiable imagination and cured his existential decay. Books were the most powerful, but he painted and loved as well. Today though he was of a different mind, and he sat quietly in a fragile state of disarray; dwindling in this peace induced, eternally lost, vintage soundscape.
Relatively satisfied though, he listened on with a distant nod, onwards to infinity — or at least until the music died. Naturally it always did. So when the record finally came to a quiet finale, there was a chill flicker that crept up his spine: a lingering demon whispers wryly, those black tendrils like a plague, souring the fields with a rancid sun.
The repetitive pulse of the black lined vinyl started to fill the room with an ominous silence and he could feel the claws scratch the wind, making the teetering weights of his mind wane with a breathtaking anxiety that he cared never to acknowledge. The longer he sat there though the greater the burden weighed on each thought… on each sentence… each word… each…
With a worried, uncomfortable smirk he jolted up and shuffled his feet across the floor towards that great wall of windows and turned off the record player. After letting a sigh of relief return solace he looked up for again, peering out at the dusk painted skyline that made up Chicago.
To his dismay however, today was quite grey and bleak, and the clouded sun suspended the city in lackluster light that scarcely traced the towers, leaving little to admire.
His phone vibrated on the bed and his eyebrow raised; he walked over curiously.
Lunch @ 2 down at Louie’s. I’m buying.
He looked back up at the cityscape and caught the shimmer of his reflection. You could see the grimace clenching his brow, it darkened the features of his chiseled marble and shadowed his olive skin. He ran his hands through his unkempt hair, pushing it over to one side, effectively calming him. After a few sighs he turned and dragged himself to another hallway.
He disappeared into a room and within a minute, the entire loft sizzled and crackled back to life, stirred by the wisps of an alternate world. Dreams danced on the walls to this new electric tune, and the once empty air exploded with a rejuvenating pulse that took his attention once again, lulling the shadowy beasts that clung to his feet.
Of the many perks he had, and he was given many, perhaps one of the best of all was his full surround sound system. He had them installed just a few weeks ago, a treat to himself on his return back. With an attention to detail that was growing more apparent for this fellow, there were speakers hidden in every corner of the loft, with sub woofers below cabinets and tall standing speakers placed expertly covert.
Finally fearing nothing, he turned the volume up high and let the sound of the cosmos quake the lumbering skyscraper.
The music slowly emerged from the depths of galaxies with a low-voltage current that began to grow and mutate fluidly, transforming into an upbeat, undeniably catchy chant with a melody that buzzed and swirled with this vibrant energy. The words seemed to rise up above the beat with a kind of protest; some artistic militarization that electrified him.
It was a call to action that he so desperately needed, too. Almost simultaneously, the start of the song animated his movements with a gracious, lovable vigor; complimenting his better nature. With a sway in his step, he continued on towards the master bath.
As the music slowly filled the house it no longer felt ghostly or lifeless, rather more luxurious and modern, carrying an avant-garde feel to it. When compared to the lifeless mortuary it had once posed as, it was now a bonafide paradise. The inner city digs for a mercurial dragon.
Despite the atmosphere, his style was still taped away in boxes and his flair was sadly sheathed in large white cloths. It felt like one had just moved in, but not exactly into a new apartment but rather back into their skin. Regrouping and tightening the grip on the life they lead. Socially, it had never felt that way, but the power was clearly lowered, or muffled… like the stove on its lowest setting. Some flicker of life still creeped back on occasion, whenever the mind was occupied. All in all, he was still largely unpacked.
He opened the doors to the bathroom now, revealing immaculate and sleek features. The marble countertops were streamlined and tidy with small white towelettes folded tastefully; they were all scattered thoughtfully throughout the room. Golden knobs and faucets gleamed with a sample of his extravagance. On the counter next to the sink was a wooden bowl of shaving soap that sat classy next to a straight razor, assorted oils gave off a deliciously relaxing blend of aromas.
In the corner was a crystal set filled with liquors, both amber and gold, and a small wooden tray with a large ‘O’ carved into it. Oliver, the name for which the O stood for, walked towards the counter, heading straight for the crystal set and wooden board. In his hand he carried a black, metal grinder twisting the top of it casually. When he approached the board, he unscrewed the larger middle compartment to release a flurry of efficiently grinded cannabis, which fell gently on the polished wood where it scintillated, speckled with purple and snowy frost — beautiful.
Oliver admired it for a moment and then poured himself a glass of the brown liquor, raising it high before him. He winked mischievously at his reflection and then took a long sip before placing the heavy glass on the counter.
There was some kind of macabre humor about the way he held himself, it was as though he were playing games, like the world around him was some sort of twisted trick. Perhaps it was, there was certainly something off, though one couldn’t exactly put a finger to it.
Underneath the marble he opened another drawer and pulled out a pack of rolling papers and a crutch. After that he turned around and went into the walk-in shower where he twisted the head and started the water, filling the room with steam.
As the shower rained, off to work he went.
There was a calm focus about him now, his hands and fingers worked meticulous and delicately, with an artisan’s touch. His deep brown eyes were lost again but this time you would not think lower of it, his eyes fell on his work — those fingers now sprinkling the fine herb in the folded crease of the thin brown paper with a delicate determination. It was like a master at play; Monet in deep concentration or Michelangelo on his staff-holding, lost in an that artistic fervor that had consumed men from all walks of life. He worked with such a still grace that one might think he belonged among the statues, a belief distorted only by the quick twitching of his fingers as they rolled the fine paper into a cylinder. He licked the gum lightly and enclosed the cannabis in a neat, almost pristine cone which he then packed down softly.
With all seriousness and respective poise, he twisted it off into an iconic joint.
There was something so relaxing about the process, no disturbances nor worry, it was a time to meditate on the art of a simple task. Few were humbled by such things these days. He paused what he was doing to take another sip from his drink before opening a little black box, which revealed an assortment of old match boxes. It was really quite intriguing, each of them were unique, with their individual logos and branding of different bars and restaurants from all over the world. He grabbed one of the boxes with little thought, and pulled out a match, striking it assuredly. As it caught light, he watched it flicker for a moment and then hovered it under a couple incense sticks, whose smoke trails started to dance in the steamy air.
He took a deep inhale, wafting the scents of sage and frankincense, letting a grin catch light too as he enjoyed the sensations. Eventually he pulled another out and struck it, sitting back now, guiding the tip of the paper like a rotisserie, letting the end glow bright orange.
Soon after the joint breathed to life he brought it to his lips and pulled a long hit in, letting the cherry emboss the contours of his cheeks with that warm orange glow.
When Oliver pulled the joint away, he let a thick cloud billow slowly from his mouth and then stared off in defiant reverie. Immediately there was a wave of relax washing over his senses, wiping away all the tensions that held him against his will so habitually. Why had he felt so uncomfortable earlier that morning… the silences had been far worse before, especially after he’d been committed. Yet recently they had become far more infrequent, there was something eerily disconcerting about the recurrence and it was certainly something to ponder.
He smoked on with a calm contentment, not delayed but rather focused. He breathed a great sigh of relief, thankful to be free of the irritants of thought. He placed the half smoked joint in a small ash tray and then promptly stripped down to nothing, walking casually into his walk-in shower. The smoke eventually gave way to steam as the bass thumped with a primal intensity.
Later, after he had dressed he went downstairs and across the street to meet Anton, a dear friend of some time though this would mark the first time in weeks since they’d connected. Outside it was cool but the wind was sharp and icy. There they met and cordially exchanged pleasantries before heading inside.
In the diner there were not many words spoken, at least not from Oliver. More rather there were nods to keep the conversation going and quiet mumbles in response to whatever Anton had to say, some of it was important; most of it was not. On a rare occasion there would be a glance upwards that marked an topic of interest. Some news on the next exhibition of a friend’s work, another update on a runway show Anton was putting together; assorted fancies, all of them.
When he did speak however it was as though he had not been listening at all. His mind, simply put, was never present and his eyes were never focused. He did listen, though only to take note for dates, but often times he looked lost in daydreams more visceral than the world right before him. He rarely even took any notice to the commotion around him either. The people shuttering by, conversations in flight, all of it was a blur of nothingness. Save for the bittersweet aroma of coffee that filled the diner — all other sensations failed to catch his eye, and so he remained quiet, caught in mid-conversation whilst remarkably not conversing at all.
She looked at him with longing, hazel green eyes, rubbing his neck.
Oliver blinked, a sudden state of euphoria crossed his eyes, coloring his cheeks. It arose an urge in him that had not stirred for several months now, maybe even a year. When it came though it took him entirely by surprise and he followed it without question.
Anton had not noticed, he was preoccupied in conversation, something about a girl. Today was something important, it had to be. He checked his phone, October 17. Right, it was the day he attended her art exhibit for the first time. They had snuck into the back room and made love before the show had started. What a lovely memory that was.
“You know, I think I’ll visit Anna next week,” He spoke suddenly and with an air of deep contemplation, his eyes were fixated out the window on the grey world beyond.
“Wait, what?” replied Anton obviously confused at the cut off, he had just been telling his story of a Swedish girl he’d met at some bar that had come from his home town. Oliver continued his thought without even a hint of regard, his voice was silken, like a sweet reverie.
She smiled ever so softly.
“I haven’t seen her in years,” He pursed his lips and crinkled his nose, a bit disgusted by the fact.
“She lives in Seattle still, I think.”
“Hold on, isn’t this the same Anna that you left, the Anna that you swore never to talk to again?”
Shattered ceramics were scattered across the ground, blood dripped in narrow streams.
Oliver shot a painful glance at him and then shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He looked out the window again and continued as if nothing had been said. Entirely rejecting all notions of any kind of issue.
“Seattle is beautiful you know, the trees, the weather; I’ve always loved the west coast.”
Anton raised an eyebrow.
“Oh and the mountains,” He looked up at Anton for the first time with real sincerity, “They must must be incredible this time of year,” His eyes darted and danced as if he were living in a dream, “Imagine once you get to the top, above the rest of the world — even the weather, all the clouds are someone else’s burden to… weather” he grinned at the pun, and looked back to Anton with glowing sincerity, “We should go climb them some day.”
Anton blinked and kept quiet for a moment, juggling these flurry of emotions that ranged from touched to slightly concerned. Oliver was always capable of these things, capable of coloring the world with such a charm that was impossible to deny. The way he dreamt, the way he spoke with such an offbeat luster; it was riveting. Yet he was like a lighthouse in that way, flickering on and off. Sometimes there were moments he was alive and captivating, and the words he spoke were enchanting, taking you away like a trip. But when the light turned back around, and his world was lost to the dark, it was like the clarity he had just moments ago was gone. Anna, as he had been told countless times by Oliver himself was strictly off limits for good. But still, it was just one those moments when the light shined that Anton couldn’t resist staying around to enjoy the shimmering reminders of an old friend. These days they were rare sure, but when they showed up? They were beautiful, damn it.
He kept quiet for a moment, choosing his words very carefully. He took a deep breath trying to regather his composure,
“You know you can’t go and see her,” He spoke gently, “Last time you two got together you.. you broke your knuckles punching a wall.”
He looked at his knuckles and wiggled his fingers with a child-like wonder. “It was just a spur of the moment kind of thing,” He clenched his fist, trying to remember what exactly had happened,
“You know how she makes me feel.”
Their hands were clasped tight, but eventually pulled apart; one longing, the other gone.
Anton said nothing, he knew he was right. But truth is, they were too hot — the fire they kindled was like a wildfire, bright and destructive. She inspired the hell out of him, more than life itself. And in return he showed her a world she never knew, this world of their imagination unlike any other. But like all great things it grew too much to bear and the flames that once burned in their hearts eventually licked at their feet. It was not long before eventually one of them got burned, yet Oliver would never let himself believe that it was he who bore the scars.
“You know she’s working with ceramics now?”
“Wait I thought she was a photographer?”
“She was, or well she is, it’s kind of like a hobby.”
“Is she any good?”
He pulls out his phone and starts swiping through various apps and searches,
“Look, here’s one. It’s a monkey hanging upside down on a vine,” He handed it to Anton with an excited grin, lighting up just at the thought of her.
“Look how intricate the finger work is, and the ink overlay she did on the monkey’s back and arms? The flowers are just so meticulous, it’s incredible — like the finest of china.” He swipes through a few more, proudly. Anton observes reluctantly enjoying life. “And that’s just the first few of her newest collection. Isn’t she amazing?”
“Yeah…” He trailed off, mesmerized by the work. Suddenly he shook his head, “But what about you though, when are you going to get back to your work?”
The light in Oliver’s eyes just went out. Lost again, and like a recluse he fell back into himself; cold now in the dark beyond the lighthouse. He shifted in his seat and spoke with defeatism.
“I can’t work.”
“I won’t. I don’t know. I want to, but each time I try it just feels wrong. I feel out of touch or off, or something. As if I’m not doing it right, which is idiotic because I’m the only one who does me right. I don’t know, and I keep messing up too… and then I get angry… I-I— I just can’t.”
“Hey,” he grabbed his shoulder and stared him down, deep into his eyes, “Don’t worry. It’s fine. Look you’ve been home for what, a few days now? Of course it’s going to take a little time to get back in the swing of things.”
“No it’s worse, I’m so afraid that I’ll… mmm,” He suddenly had a sour taste in his mouth and a sickening feeling about everything in this building. “You know, fuck it. Let’s get out of here.”
He jumps up and in one fluid motion, finishes his cup of coffee, slaps a crumpled ten down on the table and immediately walks out of the diner without any questions asked, leaving Anton confused, scrambling to put on his coat.
Outside it is still overcast and cold. Oliver walks down the sidewalk with his hands shoved in his brown overcoat pockets and his head down, fighting the wind.
“Yo, I had to make sure that waitress got your fuckin’ money asshole,” Anton yells in that gnarly Swedish accent of his. He chases Oliver down and the two walk briskly down the side walk, “Alright, so where are we going?
“Too get a drink.”
Anton stops and looks at his watch. “It’s noon?” He calls out surprised.
“Why do you care?” Anton shrugged.
Anyways, I’m thirsty.” Oliver turned back around, “You coming?” He shouted back.
“Eh, yeah sure, wait up.”
The glasses clinked with a cumbersome thud on the marble counter. In the dim, musty bar the well-cut crystal gave off a subtle gleam, shimmering in the low light. From a distance they glistened with an air of amber elegance that charmed even by the look; yet regardless they were to be sipped just the same. Anton picked up both in one hand and with the other, pulled out a few crumpled dollar bills from his pocket and left them in the tip jar. He smiled and nodded at the bartender and headed back to the booth.
“I mean it’s just a matter of principle I think,” Oliver continued in time.
“Oh do you?” One of the girls smirked.
Oliver batted his eyes playfully and then thanked Anton for the drink. He took a long, savoring sip and then responded quite callously, “Yes, our greed and intolerance have been painting the faces of our enemies for decades.”
She laughed rather insincerely, she had to be flirting with him, how absurd. She shook her head, “So you think capitalism is the bigger problem?”
An interesting suggestion, “It’s not necessarily the system of capitalism, but rather they way it runs these days.”
“Gotta love big business,” Anton blurted jokingly.
Oliver shrugged it off,
“It’s gotten overblown and callous, billions of dollars being thrown around just to keep control of whatever power struggle best suits their profits.”
Anton rolls his eyes, disgusted.
“But like, isn’t that what corporations have always done?” The brunette asked.
“You mean a never ending paradox of wasting our time to get a bunch of selfish shit done first. Well, yes. But in todays age the increase of mass production has gotten so overwhelming that all the power they have over us is astounding. They’ll do anything to keep a constant stream of complacent consumers eating out of their hand.”
Anton acted like a couch potato watching TV.
“Yeah, pretty much.”
The two girls were very quiet at this point, one of them, the blonde, seemed to be thinking a bit too hard on the idea while the brunette didn’t seem to comprehend it clearly. Typical. You find that fakes are always lagging after they hear truths. Its like some kind of glitch really, terribly tragic honestly.
Oliver rolled his eyes, “Basically stuff like reality shows and fast food were supported so heavily only to distract the eye away from the outside world and brainwash the sheep. It originated from rationing in the second world war but after that, we just got addicted.”
He saw her urge to argue, and pressed on, “The big businesses basically skyrocketed off all the mass produced industries and threw all their skeletons into the sea which muddied everything. Shit like plastic, what the fuck even is that. Instead of focusing on all the polluted junk they’re feeding us we’ve literally been feasting off of it, glued to all the fake reality dramas that have been delayed and overplayed just to keep our thoughts away from the actual problems.”
“What are the actual problems?”
“After awhile those at the top realized that capitalism will eventually implode and destabilize — an economy based on endless growth is unsustainable, the entropy increases and overwhelms. So, seeing how everything was paying the big bucks, they swiped it under the rug for years, keeping the hopes high and optimism ringing true.”
“Wait you’ve kinda lost me.”
“Capitalist pigs stalled the engine by feeding us gunk, clogging all the pipes. Advertising all the cheapest, unhealthiest options so it could lag on forever. In doing so they got drunk off of oil to keep the factories pumping out bullshit but neglected the repercussions of such reckless habits. Eventually ISIL emerged as the karmic venom of a very selfish and pious society that feeds on this gilded wealth that’s becoming cheaper and cheaper to produce by the day. Since the Middle East is so rich in petroleum reserves, the poison of the power struggles were so vile and toxic to that ecosystem that it corrupted and incubated an intolerant group of Islamic people to commit savagery in efforts to slowly dismantle this society built on broken backs.”
“Wait so you think ISIL are the good guys?”
Oliver shook his head no, “Darling you’re not really focusing on the right things here.”
Anton chimed in, “Nobody in this picture is the good guy that’s the whole problem.”
Oliver slammed his hand on the table, “Thank you.”
“See, we are living with the options of use cheaply or use cleanly… and for pretty much all the last hundred years we’ve chosen to use cheaply. Mostly cause of the wars. Eventually, it took a huge toll on us and it has been destabilizing this world ever since… people don’t realize that growing things on infertile soil makes for a progressively bad harvest.”
“Of course we had to climb the mountain and learn the hard way to find that out — and we’re still stalled even today,” He took another sip, “But being plugged into a Television for decades will do that to a human; after all, what sanctity surrounds the celebrity?”
“Oh god you make it sound so dreary.” One of them replied.
“Isn’t it?” Oliver countered.
“Well I guess yeah, now that you put it that way.”
Oliver nodded with hint of sarcasm, “Paradigms… paralyze us.”
He took another sip to save from saying any more.
“Okay, so is that what you were trying to express in your paintings?”
Oliver grinned and nodded, but again held his tongue. He was in no mood to explain his work in any further detail, especially not to these girls who could hardly fathom it. The depth flew over their heads and he was exhausted.
Anton noticed the trigger, “You know what! I think we have to go now my fair ladies.”
They both pleaded no but Anton just grinned, “It was lovely to meet and drink with you both, what were your names again Jessica and Taylor, right?”
They nodded ecstatically.
“Beautiful, yes that’s quite nice.” Anton spaced for a moment, “Right! We’ll be on our way—”
“Can we get an autograph before you go, Oliver!?” They both chimed in angelic tones.
As always the compliment superseded the complications and he smiled widely, pulling out his sharpie and signing a napkin for the both of them. After that, they all said their final goodbyes and promptly left the bar.
Outside the wind was harsh and the cold, piercing; the two swung their arms and popped collars to hide from the barren breeze. Oliver looked over at Anton with a devilish grin, reminiscing on the moment. Anton laughed out loud and broke the silence,
“We have got to stop preaching to fan girls.”
“All they want to do is take pictures and lose their moments.”
“But they’re always so cute though, you gotta give em that.”
“Mais oui, what do you expect?” Oliver gestured back to himself grandly.
“Whatever Narcissus, they’re still sucked into the matrix don’t forget.”
Oliver rolled his eyes, “The wind was around a long time before we learned to use it.”
Anton stretched back his arms behind him, “Yeah yeah, alright, I’m bored let’s go smoke.”
Oliver nodded and pulled out his phone, “I’ll call the uber.”
He struck a match across the red filament and it sputtered to life, bursting into a bright flame that he admired for a moment as it flickered and burned. He drew it near, letting the orange glow illuminate the contours of his cheeks before lighting the cigarette between his lips, it crackle neatly and burned bright. He breathed in a long drag and then pulled it away calmly.
His eyes were lost again deep in another world and he idled with no cares, toying with his cigarette casually. Anton was walking around aimlessly, peaking under sheets to look at the paintings or shuffling through the vinyls curiously.
He sighed, “This place used to be popping as fuck.”
Oliver said nothing, he only blinked hard and took another drag.
“You used to have the lights and the walls filled…”
He looked at him jeeringly, “I mean you really let yourself go.”
To this Oliver let out a defiant “HA”, such statements always tickled his wit.
“It’s no laughing matter, you need to hit the gym my friend.”
“I was at the gym for 6 whole weeks mothafucka, remember that?” Flashes of a white walled asylum passed by both of them.
Anton grinned awkwardly, “Must’ve skipped my mind.”
Oliver hissed and rolled his eyes.
Anton looked off for a moment, as if to escape the moment’s uncomfortable tension.
Then he returned with a jump, “But you’re back now, so that’s got to mean something right? They wouldn’t just give up on you.”
He weighed the possibilities in his head and then looked back at him. “Well, I’m no longer anorexic if that’s what you’re meaning.”
“Sheesh, way to paint a picture.”
“But you are good… right?” He asked, eying him with sincerity.
Oliver took another drag, deflecting the question with another question. “Do you think I’d be back if I wasn’t?”
“Well you say you can’t do your work…”
“Since when did they condemn someone for writer’s block?”
“So that’s all it is now..”
“That’s all it is.” Oliver said with an irritated slash.
Anton tested the waters, feeling out the silence between the two. It used to be easy to tell when he was unstable but these days it was not as simple. To ease them both, he dropped the topic.
Eventually the silence was broken as Anton coughed heavily, letting billows of smoke out as he pulled a glass bong away from his mouth. The residue of the last hit still rose lightly from the piece and it brought Oliver back to reality as he smiled at his wheezing friend.
“You’re going to cough out a lung one day, you know.”
“You’re—,” he gasped for air and heaved one last bark, “You’re one to talk, with all your damn cigarettes. Say, how’s your lungs these days?”
Oliver looked at him with contemplating eyes.
“Picked up a habit while away, did you?”
He put it to his lips and held it as he hit, pulling it away with an easy elegance. He looked back at Anton and smiled, “It makes me feel cool.”
“God, that’s the only damn reason?”
“Is there really another?”
Anton paused, “Seriously why? That shit’ll kill you.”
“I guess I just like the idea of having death between my fingers —” He stretched his arm out reaching towards the piece, “Pass me the bong?”
Anton nodded and complied reluctantly. There was always a witty banter between the two, it had been that way ever since they became friends. He played and teased, tested and chanced, it was always a game of dice and it had become addictive for them.
Ever since Oliver moved out into the city, which was about 4 years ago, Anton had been the closest thing to a best friend. He was still highly renowned for his art and the volume of new buyers was heavier than ever. Anton’s partying, lighthearted ways helped ease the stressors.
In fact, Anton was the first friend he ever made when the train came into station. He paused, now having to chuckled to himself as he remembered their first meeting. That Swedish dumbass had spilt coffee all over his pants when the driver slammed on the brakes, but of course, after smoking him out as an apology they’ve been quite inseparable ever since.
Oliver took a hearty rip from the piece, let out a cloud as white as snow and then gracefully melted into his seat; Anton got up to look out the window.
“Weather’s picked up again,” He looked back to Oliver, “Looks like a storms coming.”
“Good,” He sat back and put his arms behind his head, “I enjoy the rain.”
“You love anything that’s not blue skies my friend. Whenever it get’s dark and the winds pick up, that’s the only time you tune in.”
“What can I say, clear days are slow and empty. Nothing ever happens, nothing ever changes.”
He smiled and sat back, thinking back to all the storms he’d weathered in his life. It wasn’t just storms, it was every natural phenomenon. He couldn’t stand those days without a cloud in sight nor a breeze to be felt — he liked when things actually made a difference, it felt eventful.
“You finished with that yet? You’ve taken like three hits.”
“We’ve got plenty to spare, don’t get so wound up.”
“Haven’t you heard of puff puff pass? Hit it and quit it? Common courtesy for christ’s sake?”
“Now you’re just making shit up.”
“Whatever, all I know is the magic dragon did not stand for this bullshit” He tried reaching his hand out to swipe the bong but before he could, Oliver pulled away with a mischievous smirk.
They stared at each other, warring in silence, and Oliver — with a devilish grin — slowly struck another match and cleared the entire bowl in one long hit.
“Fuckin son of a bitch.” Anton exclaimed, “We’re gonna have to call another plu—” Oliver slid open a drawer and pulled out a mason jar filled to the brim with more weed.
Anton’s eyes went wide and he took a seat next to him. “Shit, I guess the day’s done for then.”
Oliver broke into a laughter that disrupted his hit making him cackle into a cough, letting clouds of smoke pour from his mouth as he tried to compose himself.
“Well, with the storm coming I doubt you’d have much to worry about anyways.”
Anton snickered, “True. I guess a little rain never hurt anybody.” The two nodded on agreement and went to work packing more bowls.
“Roll another joint too, let’s get more in rotation.” He looked at Oliver with a grin, fully aware that he had hit his soft spot.
“Well, if you insist.” He pulled out a few papers, some crutches, and began folding the filter.
Anton was quiet, mulling over something for a few moments.
“You know, if we’re gonna blow pounds, we should at least invite some others over.”
Oliver nodded but took a hit anyways before he responded.
“I remember that girl on the 7th floor coming over a few times. She was chill, and pretty cute too, what was her name?”
“Oh that’s Ally.”
“You got her number?”
He tossed his phone over to Anton.
“Oh and what about Matt?”
“Can’t, he’s at works today.”
“Shit, uh let’s see. Sara wanted to hang out the other day, did you ever get back to her?”
“Nah I um… I kind of forgot.”
The two laughed, “Fuck head, I think she likes you.”
“She’s dating someone man,”
Anton smirked, speaking in silence. Oliver’s eyes widened, shocked but not surprised.
“…and besides, we’ve already had a thing.”
“Ah that’s bullshit, you still like her I can tell. Anyways, you remember how she was all over you when we went to Coney Island.”
“I remember… We’re friends though, I’m just glad she moved up here.”
Anton let out a laugh.
He shot him a glare and then shrugged, “She’s just fun-loving I guess, I don’t think she’s even aware — I know she doesn’t care about how she acts when she’s having a good time.”
“True but I have eyes mate, and I don’t think that was the case,” he took a big rip from the bong and continued, “You told her she was your girlfriend to get out of that house party remember? And before you had told her it was nothing, she was practically giddy with happiness.”
Anton gestured triumph.
“But after I told her that she just retreated back into her shell and it was super awkward for the rest of the night. You remember that too, don’t you.”
“Tension… tension…” Anton responded playfully.
“Shuttup!” Oliver laughed, “Fuck. She’s cute but it’s man.”
He took a drag from the cigarette that he’d nearly forgotten about.
“There was that one time she and I smoked with Cali and I felt like I was floating again, like she was my girl, the way she had her legs crossed and we were talking about music. She was sweet and glowing, and so caring…” He took another drag. “But every time I try to get close theres something that happens to block it, she deflects or I get all hazy in the head. Ah… I really just don’t know what to make of it.”
“She is still dating someone I guess, there’s probably conflict about that.”
“Oh you think?”
“Well either way she’s a fun fucking time so you should call her.”
“There’s just no arguing with you is there, huh?”
“Nah, I always get what I want.”
“You’re high as fuck,” Oliver grinned with a laugh.
“You say that like it’s a bad thing,” Anton smirked again, beckoning him with the phone.
“Fine, fine. I’ll fucking call her, asshole.” He got up to go grab something.
“Aye attaboy, I dig you two as a couple you know,”
“Lay off mate,” he chuckled, “You want a drink?”
“Tea if you please.”
“Oh, good idea.” Oliver left into the other kitchen to warm the kettle.
“Thanks babe, you kick ass.” He heard Anton call out sarcastically.
He laughed to himself and shook his head. He often thought about what made such an oddball pair work for so long. Anton was a klutz and a goof no doubt, always a bit too loud and a little too joking, he was a talented event organizer, definitely knew his work, but he was always out thinking of brighter things and always really thinking a bit too much period. Despite all of that though he was smart, damn smart. One of the smartest kids he had met in this city — and that was saying something — but what made him different, different from him even, was that he listened and he pondered more than anything. He indulged in life and asked nothing more from it. Maybe that was why he was so odd, cause he cared less than damn near everyone, well at least about life that was. He cared more for his friends and loved far more than he could ever help. Oliver smiled, the guy was a hopeless romantic and he liked that; it made him appreciate the things he often took for granted.
In the kitchen now, he flipped the switch to the kettle and then walked into the pantry, perusing through the different herbal teas. There was chamomile, chai, Oolong, even a few more unique brews with saffron and orange. He enjoyed tea, especially after smoking when all the flavors were the most intense and his throat was scratchy.
After selecting one, he pulled out his phone and clicked down towards Sara’s contact, calling it and putting it up to his ear.
It was ringing. He rubbed his eyes and tried not to think too much on it.
“Hey!” Her voice was warm.
“Hey, what’s up?”
“Um just chilling right now, nothing much. What about you?”
“Pretty much the same thing, we’re smoking pretty fat right now.”
“Ooh really huh?” She let out a hearty laugh.
He couldn’t help but grin widely, “Oh yes, really.”
“Well I am pretty jealous honestly,” she admitted, “I haven’t been able to smoke all day…”
“Alas! The cure awaits…”
She laughed again, “Who’s with you?”
“Oh sweet, I love Anton!”
“Yeah! So what do you say, you want to come chief with us?”
“Yeah for sure, I’m so down!”
He smiled again.
“Now?” She asked eagerly.
“Of course, come on over whenever you can, it looks like a pretty slow day with all the storms rolling in so we’ll probably just be toking all evening.”
He bit his lip, thinking on that for a moment.
“Well that couldn’t be more perfect! Okay um, well let’s see I have to shower but I will come over as fast as I can, Okay?”
“Yeah that’d be great, I mean we’ll try and save some for you, but I dunno, Anton’s packing another now and you know how he gets.” Oliver followed up teasingly.
She played along, “Once he starts he never stops right?”
“Chicago went dry for a month last time we let him loose.”
She laughed, “Alright well in that case I’ll hurry then. See you soon!”
“Okay, see ya.”
The phone clicked.
He stood there for a moment, going over what just happened, reviewing what was said and simply smiling to himself. Right then the kettle started whistling and it curved his thoughts. Oliver walked over to turn it off, filling two cups with steaming water and let them steep.
“What did she say?” Anton called out from the other room.
“She’s gonna shower and then she’ll be on her way over.”
“Fuck yeah. Dude, I’m gonna turn on some music, cool?
“Uh of course?”
“Rad, alright one sec then.”
He pulled out another cigarette and lit it while the tea was cooling down. He didn’t have much on his mind but he felt there was something eating at him today, he felt too restless and energetic to just kick back and chill tonight.
He walked to the window and looked out as the sky began to grow dark. There was a growing fire in him and he was only feeling more alive as the world around him grew grim and sinister. The bass began to thud in the background and Anton returned to the living room.
“What’s on your mind bro?”
He took another drag and turned around with a cool grace.
“I want to throw a party, man.”
“I mean, unless you’ve got a better idea.”
He grinned at Anton and shook his head, taking another slow drag.
“Come on, don’t ask stupid questions. Of course we’re gonna throw it here. Get the word out, tell them it’s a house warming.”
Anton was suddenly filled with a ridiculous energy and shouted out with delight.
“Fucking finally!! Alright, here,” He picked up the bong and handed it to Oliver, “Let’s have some celebratory BRs then, yeah?”
The music began to take full stage as he lost himself in the hazy glee of the high, he was actually enjoying himself again and it felt as though there was no stopping him now.
“So we’ve got the booze, the bump and…” he pulled out two filled mason jars, “especially the bud (Anton cheered) — I think I’m feeling in a generous mood tonight.”
He placed the bong back on the table and let the rhythm of the beat take full force. He started to sway and dance with no care in the world, standing up between gasps of laughter to shoot his hands in the air, middle fingers up, and then shouted at the top of his lungs:
“That’s right baby, we about to turn the fuck up tonight!” He clenched his fists and held them up high, perfectly synchronized with the song’s drop.
He then pulled out his phone and sent a text to a few friends he knew would spread the word quick, afterwards he threw the phone on the couch and resumed his mania.
Anton watched for a moment, the seconds slowed to a stand still as all the atoms seemed to realign with one moment again. He was astonished to see all this life flooding back into his friend and felt the energy of the moment take hold of him. He felt his own flow pull him, launching him forward into his instinctual event planning mindset.
“Okay! Let’s get things straight, so Ally and Sara are on their way?”
“Sara is! I haven’t called Ally yet.”
“Alright. Alright, call her mate! You know she’d be down.”
“Mmm nah I think you got this one” He threw the phone at him abruptly. “That’s the hookup we should be talking about, I’ll even set you two up if you want.”
“Think you’re the only one whose got eyes, you two have been at it for weeks.”
“She’s got the hots for me, huh?”
He slung his arm around Anton and smiled, “All I’m gonna say is there’s a storm coming, and it always gets the girls in the mood. Don’t be afraid to go for her man.”
Anton was smiling, imagining his night and the glorious end it could finish with.
“Shit, it’s getting me in the mood too.”
“Ay, that’s what I like to hear.”
He took a sip of the warm tea and let the hot liquid run smooth down his throat. He sighed with relief, “Mmm yeah, it’s gonna be one helluva night.”
The elevator closed, it was filled with exceptional characters of all variety, beautiful women with their eyes painted and vibrant apparel fitting with a remarkable elegance; men dawning the years highest fashion and others with their own flair and touch, equally surreal. The little floating room was overflowing with energy — consciousness pressing out, seeping through the cracks in the door. They were all chattering to and fro without any real direction. Voices crying out about another friend on their way. Others taking photographs and laughing ecstatically.
“Oliver hasn’t had a party in a year. Seriously where has he been?” One questioned out loud.
“I heard he took a trip out of the country.” Another chimed in.
“Yeah I read that somewhere I think, Italy?”
“Dunno, I haven’t spoken to him in years.”
“Hey did you bring the molly or did you take it already?” There were conversations scattered throughout the elevator as they rose to one of the highest floors.
“Oh I have yours, we took ours earlier.”
“I read Oliver checked into a hospital for six months.”
“Oh is he sick?”
“Ha, yeah twisted in the head. Idiot, you don’t just decide to get sick.”
“Hey shuttup, I hope he’s alright now though.”
The elevator clicked open, letting a flood of clipped bass swarm into the small elevator that quickly distracted everyone; invigorating the party goers like an intoxicating pheromone. All down the floor were others, just as extravagant in dress and vibrancy — some were talking on phones while others were arguing, there were a few couples who came out to catch a breath or perhaps just to find space to be intimate.
“I think he’s doing just fine,” Commented one with a wide smile, their eyes were all glowing with intrigue and fascination on what the evening had in store.
Some of them shouted out with delight as the music and smell of marijuana got stronger and stronger the closer they got to the door.
“Take yours now Chelle,” One of them urged.
They knocked, doing their best to be as patient as possible.
It was a high-rolling affair; knocks on the door from new arrivals were barely audible even by 10 o’clock. With the pre-game only barely begun, it was already becoming one of the hottest scenes of the night. The bass was overwhelmingly powerful as trap and remixed old school hiphop filled the flat with an electric energy so vibrant and crisp — it was almost tangible.
People from all over the city had gotten the word and had begun showing up by the numbers. Finally the door swung open for knocks minutes before and a swaying Anton greeted the new party-goers with the half-slurred, half-cocky line of greetings that started with a bottle of Don Perignon in his left and a mostly smoked joint in his right.
“Good evening!” He shouted with a bombastic energy, and the new group roared as a few had recognized Anton’s face from one of the most recent GQ interviews. “Come on in loves… welcome… to la casa de Stanton!” He took another swig and yelled back to the already large crowd behind him, “The hardest hitting party in Chi-town aye!?”
They all raised glasses and cheered ecstatically, priming the new comers with a hysterical excitement who swarmed in with smiles wider than the door.
The lights were turned low. They flickered through the smoke which rose in like a frozen world seeming to slow the scene down to a distorted time slower than the electric crowd that jumped and danced with this irresistible vigor. Oliver, Sara and Anton had picked up some strobes and black lights earlier so the house was revived, alive and energized. The walls were painted bright in colorful haze of reds and blues that danced across the great wave of people. They shaded the faces of stylish elites and rich young artists alike. It was like the roaring twenties revamped with this modern flair. Everyone was dressed in the most fashionable attire; full of energy, sexy and ripe with life. There was this intoxicating buzz in the room and if it was before, it was really no question now, Oliver Stanton was back to his usual bag of tricks.
Anton led the group in and like a fanciful host, dodging dancers and off balanced partiers with an impressive grace. He showed them around with over-zealous glee, building up the new arrivals at every turn with his elated hysteria. He led them through the kitchen where finger foods, weed and glass pieces were set out for the crowds enjoyment. For some reason these parties were respectable enough to allow certain luxurious, complimentary gifts that weren’t abused, it seemed customary to provide his guests with the most enriching experience.
Some stayed behind but as he continued on he stopped by the bar, presenting it all like an african safari, “And if you’ll look to your right, please take notice to the cool beverages placed for your convenience,” he grabbed one of the bartenders who grinned as Anton continued, “This mate Zachary can make ANY drink you can think of, go ahead give him a try…” His slurs were hilariously obvious but his rambunctious behavior entertained and excited.
The bar was covered in bottles that had been set out and lined up with glasses, ready for the taking. No expenses were spared that night, and when they finally made their way to the main room it was beyond intense. Packed to the brim with illuminated faces and exotic light shows swirled around by bohemian women and men alike with glow sticks and hoops.
In the middle of the fray you could see him, wearing a tan sweater rolled up slightly with navy slacks and brown boots to match. He was surrounded on all sides, dancing in one eclectic mess of people who flowed back and forth harmoniously. An ever-present smile filled his face as he danced to his own accord, steadily leading the vibe of the party, unintentionally keeping it at maximum heights as the DJs unshackled all the tension with each euphoric drop.
He raised his glass as the music changed to a slower electronic pulse, bouncing in sync to the powerful bump, he spoke little and didn’t pay much attention to really anyone, letting his inner joy come out in full force. For this particular song he knew every word and was singing loudly while everyone cheered, singing and dancing along together.
Sara danced her way to him. “You’re having fun tonight, huh?” She shouted in his ear.
He slung his arm around her and smiled, “I’ve got reason to be, I mean look around you, this place is fucking alive tonight, it’s so good to see…” The music pulsed in and out with this powerful energy, Oliver closed his eyes for a moment, taken away, and then he resumed:
“…So good to feel!!”
She smiled wide and nodded, letting the groove of the music take her, shaking her hips and turning, raising her arms high in the air. Oliver downed his drink and shouted out with excitement, placing his hand on her hip and getting close with a thoughtless ease.
“I’m so glad you’re back,” she said back to him, “I was so worried—,”
“I’m alright,” he said with a calm smile, “You’ve got nothing to worry about.”
He seemed so sure and she couldn’t help but trust him in that moment, he was overpoweringly present and undeniably confident.
“Hey great fucking party Oli! Shouted a girl next to him.
“It’s all for you! Go enjoy yourself love,” He shouted back with a devilish grin. Before he could get back into the groove, he felt an arm around his shoulder.
“Yo, mate I need you real quick!” Anton shouted at him as he threw his arm around Sara also who laughed and played along. He then went over to whisper something in Oliver’s earn who nodded and spoke sweetly to Sara, “I’ll be right back, okay?”
“Okay.” She smiled, falling back into the rhythm.
He left her, weaving his way through the thick crowd, greeting and shaking hands as he went.
“So Ally’s here, eh?”
“Yeah she just got here.”
“Uh, okay let’s see… Oh right she’s over by the bar!”
“Right, alright well let’s get you a girl mate.”
He started towards the bar but paused for a second, feeling a subtle unease, something familiarly uncomfortable, but he shrugged it off and continued on. The plan was pretty simple, he would give them time in his spare room to connect and do whatever felt right.
“Allison! Hello you’re looking ravishing tonight.” He handed her a glass of vodka sour, which she took with a quaint smile she spoke some kind of cordial response but it was just a little too soft to hear. Oliver pressed on regardless,
“Hey listen, here’s Anton. I’m sure you two have met already.”
She smirked at him, obviously they had met, he was joking though and all of them exchanged pleasantries, grinning warmly. Oliver smiled, “Hey it’s getting pretty loud, you guys want to head back to the chi room?”
“The Chi room?” Ally asked curiously, she was very chill and no doubt meditated often. Her vibe alone gave off a very powerful presence, spiritually.
Oliver grinned and was about to speak but Anton cut him off, “Yeah, it’s this crazy beautiful room he uses for meditation, you’ve got to check it out, I mean I know how much you’re interested in that kind of stuff!”
She nodded with a wide smile and the three walked back across the room, making their way through the crowd once more.
The music had turned trance and there was a collective thumping to the room that almost felt choreographed. Oliver was enjoying himself so much, as he was making his way through the crowd he couldn’t help but get stopped by appreciative guests or friends and acquaintances, casually catching glances and dances alike, swinging freely with the entrancing beat.
Suddenly he saw Sara across the room and without a second thought started to head over to her, feeling some uncontrollable pull he was not inclined to avoid. She was so beautiful that night; wearing charcoal joggers and a black leather jacket with an Ibizia tee underneath, it all fit perfectly but what would one expect from a fashion model?
“Oli hold up bro,” Anton tugged on him. “Show us to the room real quick?”
He turned around looking at him, obviously conflicted. “Uh, yeah sure of course.” He turned around again but stopped, realizing all of the forces pulling on him at that moment. He paused for another second, feeling that same wave of discomfort slide down his spine, making him shiver, shifting in his shoes. He turned back to them and hurried through the crowd.
He opened up the Chi room and flipped on the dim lights that lined the ceiling and floors. The room was filled with blankets and matts, pillows and chests, all kept very earthy and natural, patterned with psychedelic prints and brocades. It was a very intense experience just walking into the room and he was instantly met with many memories of past meditations and thoughts that went on there; some were welcomed and some certainly were not. Yet regardless, they all snuck into his mind like ghosts.
“Hey do you have your chest in here?”
“Yeah it’s in the left corner, use whatever you guys want, there are no bad choices in here.” He smiled, looking at Sarah with a comforting gaze. She was already preoccupied with the styles throughout the room, perking up at the thought of a ‘chest’, whatever that meant.
He was glad, he knew the two had been flirting for weeks but they had never made any moves and it was beginning to slow, he felt he would help move things along a bit.
“Alright well I’d better get back to my guests, it was fantastic seeing you Ally, I’ll catchya.”
She gave a quick smile and then he turned to Anton,
“No messes, cool?”
“Yeah, yeah no of course,” He replied drunkly, but Oliver was sure he was fine. He was always there and knew what was going on even though he chose not to show it. He had more fun when he decided to just go with it. Even if he were drunk he’d be fine, Anton had saved Oliver from doing ridiculously stupid things plenty of times in such a state. He sobered when he needed.
Oliver turned back around, free of something at least. Beyond him the crowd was cheering in the background, calling out to him in this hidden celebratory language that he felt obligated to reply and he turned back around. However as he was walking down that empty corridor, he found it to be heavily uncomfortable for some odd reason; lovers kissed passionately and others whispered intimately. It pulled at his heart strings painfully and he was stricken with this exceptionally strange feeling, the same one that seemed to come and go all day. He started worry.
Now as he walked through the crowd there was an air of eery deception to it all, it started to get to his head and he felt woozy and a bit dizzy. Maybe it was from the drinks, he thought, maybe he had just had too much to drink. Though deep down he knew that wasn’t the case.
Fuck, was all he could think. The more he met gazes the more uneasy he felt; it all began to feel strange and frighteningly sinister to him. He tried to avoid it all but there was no fighting it, he knew he had to somehow get outside immediately.
Walking hurriedly now, he couldn’t escape it; he was a victim to his thoughts. He didn’t like it at all, every where he turned there were flashes of distant memories that passed in blurs, mixing nauseatingly with the lights and music that began to lose their buzz, feeling less like a crafted masterpiece and more like a collection of screeches and scratches.
He walked to the window and placed his palm to the glass, breathing heavily now trying to calm himself down. The world outside was pitch black and the glass was freezing cold. He had been working so hard to fight this, why was it coming back, why was it here now? He couldn’t let it get the better of him. Not here. Please, not now.
Suddenly he felt a touch on his shoulder, a familiar softness that put him straight at ease, yet when he turned around there was not one there. He dropped his glass and put his hand to his face, covering his eyes, deeply fearing what was threatening to come. Yet he pulled away, still determined to fix the issue, searching through the room for Anton only to remember that he was alone with Sarah, enjoying that moment he’d just set up. God damn it, he thought to himself.
He needed help right now.
There was panic in Oliver’s eyes, and he walked frantically, cutting through the hazy halls, through the crowds and blaring music, making a straight bee line to the bar. He hoped another drink might calm his nerves, or at the very least make him forget them altogether.
He poured himself an almost full glass of whisky and downed it immediately, feeling the warm sensation fill his stomach and he breathed heavy, trying to regain his composure.
There was no place he could go, no place he could sit to relax. Wait, his room. Of course. He headed back across the loft, making his way through the crazy crowd.
“Hey! Wait, Oliver what’s up?”
He paused, he knew that voice. He closed his eyes and shook his head, this couldn’t be happening, he couldn’t face Sara right now, not in this state. Not when he just told her he’d be okay. ‘Don’t be a bitch, come on get yourself together.’ he thought and then turned around with a half grin that was worse than no smile at all.
“Are you okay?”
He said nothing, only looked at her for a moment and then turned away.
“Hey, Oliver wait don’t turn away come here.”
He sighed and turned back around, he couldn’t look at her, he couldn’t look at anyone.
“It’s back isn’t it.”
He almost broke down, he wanted to but he didn’t. He stayed standing straight, feeling his knees wobbling slightly. He nodded with the same defeated expression like a dog with his tail between his legs.
She studied him for a moment. “Here come with me.” She grabbed his arm and the two hustled back to his room, leaving the vibrant lights and electric bass behind.
She walked in, her movements quick and lively, she turned and gently shut the door behind her; muffling the outside world. Now she walked hastily towards Oliver and took a seat at his side. He sat silent and in shock, shaking slightly with his hands covering his face.
Sara looked at him with soft eyes, rubbing her hand on his arm and giving soft words of comfort. He was fine just a moment ago, he was sure of himself, and now it was a travesty.
“I’m sorry,” he groaned.
“No it’s okay,” she spoke slowly. He looked at her and smirked, “No, really,” she replied, though it was less than convincing. She couldn’t hold his gaze and looked away.
“I said I was okay,” he sighed, moving his hands through his hair and looking up at the ceiling. He wouldn’t hold her gaze. “and I was wrong,” he joked to himself, “Clearly.”
She laughed a little and smiled, “I know,” she said, “You’re not all powerful, you know? Some of these things still get to you and that’s all right.”
“It was just going so well,” he stood up, his hands still on his head, “I don’t know what caused it,” He looked back at her, “And I’m afraid I can’t fight it once it happens.”
She hesitated, he took a breath continued.
“I’m better now though,” he bent down and placed his hand on her shoulder. She looked up and met his gaze, “Really, I am”. She smiled and hugged him tight. He felt a wave of warmth shutter through him and hugged her back, holding her tightly. The two stayed embraced for quite awhile, swimming in the seas of a nostalgic love that still burned like an ember in their hearts, struggling to catch a light.
As the time ticked by feelings of lust and attraction began to swim through their heads; it was an electric magnetism that could not be translated. There were thoughts of ecstasy and pleasure that were impossible to express and whispers of love so faint they could not be heard. She pulled away as the intensity became too much. He felt the flicker of longing thoughts still clinging to him even in her absence.
Sara looked away,
“You have to be more careful Oliver, people are always watching and they’ll tear you apart if you break down like that again.”
He smiled at her concern, “You’re right, I know,” he paused and looked at her with a grin, “I know it doesn’t look like it but I am trying.”
“You kinda suck then,” she replied with a laugh. He smiled and shook his head, she nudged him playfully and continued, “Come on, let’s go back out to the party.”
“Okay, yeah let’s go.”
The two got up and headed for the door, the music growing louder with each step.
Oliver nudged her back, “You know, this DJ is dope and all, but you should definitely go up there and turn this place up a notch.”
Her eyes lit up with excitement. He couldn’t deny it and nor did he want to, she was an amazing DJ and he often asked her to play for his parties, the only reason she didn’t play tonight was for the fact that Oliver wanted her to be a part of the party instead.
“Hell. yes.” She said, alive with vigor, thinking ahead to the rush that is to come; she darted out with haste.
“Hey Sara by the way,” She turned back around, “Thank you, for staying with me, it was really nice of you.”
“Of course, always” She said, responding with another long hug. There was something about it that sent him crazy, the way she rubbed her hand on his back and the other on his neck softly, or the subtle scent of her body underneath the perfume. In that short moment they shared he felt the most intoxicated he had all night.
“Hey! What the fuck is going on?” Shouted an angry voice from across the room. The two turned, it was Kyle — her far more intoxicated and extremely pissed off boyfriend. He pushed through the crowd and headed straight for Oliver who had only seconds to realize what was about to happen before it was too late. Kyle darted and slammed straight into his chest, ramming him into the door behind him, smashing it open; letting it swing loose on it’s hinges as the music blared and the lights strobed.
Inside the room there was total mayhem; the two struggled to gain control as they grappled on the floor, twisting wrists and grabbing throats. Finally Kyle maneuvered himself on top of Oliver, held down his hands, and clocked him right in the jaw. He threw a few more weaker hooks but nothing landed. Meanwhile Oliver wiggled and wallowed under the weight, searching for anything that could help him.
Just before Kyle cocked his arm back for another hit, Oliver managed to free one of his arms and grab a broken leg of the chair they had smashed on entry. He gripped it tight and swung, bringing it down on the side of Kyle’s head, dealing a massive blow and freeing him from his clutches. When he freed himself, Oliver rolled to his feet quickly, trying to take advantage of his opponent’s head injury. Yet, though Kyle was still dazed from the hit he barely managed to get out of the way of Oliver’s kick, missing it by inches. He then got to his knees and pulled a right hook that Oliver dodged narrowly. The swing had thrown him off balance though and Oliver countered with a crunching hook to Kyle’s ribs.
Though Kyle was obviously more muscular and taller than Oliver, he lacked the same quickness Oliver had, which gave him a chance. Oliver on the other hand was alive; he felt the energy of the fight in every movement, it was as though time had slowed and he felt clear and alert, certain of his every move. Despite the clarity, something in him felt wild and untamed, like a feral beast had been awoken, instinctually guiding and pushing him ever further. He fought with a furious desperation that held nothing back.
He couldn’t explain it or even think, there was something in him that charged forward like a locomotive engine. He felt no restraint, no weakness; like he could take on the world if he wanted. It was an incredible feeling but it wasn’t the only one. In the back of his head waned another unsettling feeling that haunted him further — though he would not think of that now.
Now was time for action. While Kyle still groveled on the floor in pain, Oliver kicked again, this time finding his mark, catching him square in the gut and knocking the wind right out of him.
He winced loudly and groaned, gasping for air like a lame animal. Yet Oliver couldn’t control it, something in him had snapped and he couldn’t go back. It felt like a sinking ship, and once the water rushed in, it was only a matter of time before it capsized. He watched helplessly as life sank down, deeper into that dark abyss.
Without hesitation he turned him over and continued to hit him senselessly, letting his fist fall like a hammer to an anvil. As the fight began to burnout and the end seemed near, Kyle began flailing hysterically in desperation, swinging blindly trying anything to escape.
One of which hit the target, catching Oliver square in the nose at which point he pulled back to grab his nose, now bleeding profusely. Kyle, limping heavily, his left eye swollen shut, charged Oliver again tackling him hard into a mirror that shattered on impact.
By this time, the fight had caught wind and people began to pour into the room, pulling out phones and shouting with a terrible enthusiasm. His vision, now tinted with red from all the blood, could only make out shimmers and blurs of people around him; they were all shouting words he didn’t have the time to understand. He twisted Kyle’s arm up and brought his elbow down on his back, knocking him to the ground with a thud. The crowd cheered with this somewhat misplaced glee, watching on as Oliver continued to beat the other man.
After a few more deafening blows the fight was finally put to bed as Anton and Sara came rushing in to restrain him before he was able smash a chair on his back. When he was pulled away you could see his veins throbbing and his eyes glowing bright with a foreign anger.
As the heights of the fight died down, he looked at his bloody knuckles in abject horror.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” Shouted Sara, frantically rushing to the side of Kyle who was laying in a bloodied slump.
Oliver said nothing. He only looked on in a pale, senseless oblivion. His breathing was heavy and blood dripped off his chin like an icicle. Instead, he whispered something in Anton’s ear and turned around and headed to his bathroom.
“All right, everybody out!” Shouted Anton turning around to see the crowd, “Get your shit and go people, obviously the party’s over!”
The night was silenced as Anton corralled the remaining partygoers out of the loft. When he turned back around he caught Sara’s gaze, who looked back at him with eyes he knew meant trouble. She shook her head, tears running down her cheeks. He tried to give her a hug but she brushed it off, running out of the room. He sighed and then looked over at Kyle who was spitting up blood on the carpet.
“Oh for christ’s — fuck me.”
With a sudden surge the door swung open and the empty bathroom flooded with light. Oliver walked in hurriedly; his eye was cut and swollen and his nose was bleeding badly. There were blood stains splattered across his clothes and he was drenched in sweat, breathing heavily.
For a moment he stood still, shoulders rising and falling with each breath, staring deeply at his mangled reflection. There was a heavy look in his eyes —stone cold — that lay in wait beneath the blood and sweat. He analyzed his wounds with the apathy of a field medic, doing his best to waste as little time as he could. He brushed his hair back and felt around his eye, turning on the sink and wetting a small towelette as he went. He worked meticulously, kneading the blood out of the cuts and cleaning them lightly. He grimaced but the pain was slight. ’Fuck’ he thought, now realizing how much pain he must actually be in — considering the fight and all the booze, he reckoned he was only feeling a fraction of it. Oliver shook his head and stripped off his shirt, doing his best not to stain anything more as he continued dabbing his bloody nose.
After finishing up, he grabbed a glass from the counter; dropping in a few ice cubes, and then topping it off with a whiskey. Oliver downed it slowly, taking his time but finishing the entire glass with little trouble. He looked at himself again in the mirror, feeling sunken and ill; the cuts were clean but still open. There was slight bruising on his jaw but really nothing much he could do about that. He turned around and Anton walked in again.
“Called Micah to help take care of him, he’s passed out at a friends house now I think,”
Oliver didn’t say anything, though he looked like he was mulling something over in his head. Anton continued in spite of the silence now walking towards him,
“But whatever though right, who gives a fuck. You good?
‘Yeah, yeah I’m fine.’ Oliver turned and began to pace, “I mean what was he thinking anyways, that drunk bastard, he just fucking tackled me and for what, just a hug?” He shook his head, “Nah fuck that.”
Anton raised an eyebrow, “Just a hug?”
“It was just a hug.”
Anton studied him for a moment, and then shook his head.
Oliver looked up, “Nope what?”
“I’m gonna have to call bull shit on that mate, It wasn’t just a hug”
He stayed silent.
“It’s never just a hug,” Anton flung his hands up dramatically, pointing at Oliver, “you still have the hots for her and you know it,” Oliver said nothing still and he continued to talk, “…She may show it too even but either way, Kyle had a reason.”
Oliver looked up at him, visually offended.
“He definitely had a reason.”
He smirked and fell back into his chair. He knew the answer, he knew how he felt about her; he knew how fucked he was from the start but he kept on playing along anyways. Oliver shook his head, he must be so stupid to have missed something so obvious, of course Kyle would be at the party — they were dating after all.
“You’re right,” he paused still contemplating his next move, “So what now, am I going to get the girl or sulk away or whatever?”
“I dunno man, that fight was pretty brutal.”
Oliver’s face fell grave, “I couldn’t stop myself Anton, I don’t know what happened I —“
“It’s alright man, it’s just the adrenaline, you got caught up in the moment don’t worry about it.” There was a hint of hesitance in his words but Oliver chose to stay silent.
“Alright well I’m gonna start rolling a blunt, shower and come join us yeah?”
“Us?” Oliver said quizzically.
“Yeah, Sam and Micah stayed to help out and they want to match.”
“Oh. Yeah, yeah for sure I’ll see you in a sec” They both nodded and Anton left.
Oliver stood there back against the door and rose his hands above his head, taking a long, deep breath. He was still shaken from it all. Slowly he made his way to the shower turning it on and then turned around for a towel, accidentally catching his reflection on the way back.
He got lost in his own eyes for a moment, feeling the blood pumping in his veins a bit harder now as his thoughts suddenly began to race. Flashes of the fight and of Sarah crossed his mind, he closed his eyes and brought his hands to his head as it all became a bit too much to bare.
His legs became weak again and he shot his hand out to stabilize himself on the marble counter. The flashes seemed to come and go in waves now, this one however was finally seeming to pass. He closed his eyes and pinched his brow; his head still throbbing from the cuts and memories.
He was beginning to feel very weary and wasted now, the fight was leaving him and with it all the energy and focus too; he felt so drained. “Well shit happens I guess,” He mumbled, pouring himself another glass. He took a small savoring sip thinking it would calm him. But with one look back up at his reflection his glance shot back down to the glass in his hand where it stayed for a moment. He shook his head, battling inside. When he looked back up there was a twisted grin on his face that was more empty than emphatic — to be frank it was quite unsettling. Something was off in him and he couldn’t beat the welling discomfort.
“Alors,” he paused, raising the glass to his reflection, “C’est la vie.” he smirked sarcastically, downing it all. He groaned as it burned all the way down, feeling the warmth inside.
Oliver had turned away for a moment but in a sudden surge of frustration, like a thousand images flickering before his mind and a million pricks of pain, he shot back around and flung the empty glass as hard as he could against the wall, shattering it to bits.
His breathing was heavy again and his fist were clenched, yet instead of vicious rampage there were tears in his eyes and an overwhelming anger that he could not control. This time he felt the pull of gravity all too greatly, letting his knees buckled from under him and falling to the floor in a heap, he sunk his head in his arms and closed his eyes, finally succumbing to his fatigue.
White walls again. No whispering though, thats good. Who are these people? I can’t see their faces, where am I? It’s turning white… fading… it’s gone.
A desk. A man at a desk, who is that man, is that me? He’s wearing a white coat — that’s not me. There’s paperwork stacked but I can’t tell what it is. The whiteness is back, I’m gone again.
Anna? Where are you taking me? Hold on slow down. Wait. Where are we? Shattered ceramics. Torn photographs. Are we at home? But it’s so… cold. You look angry. I hear whispers again.
My hands, they are bloody. Is that… is that-that my blood? or is it… The walls… all the white walls are dripping red.
My bed? I’m waking up in a sweat. There’s something, there’s something in the room.