The Recreation of Meaning

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CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

Thomas caught up with me about fifty yards down the road. There was no pavement, and I stumbled along the edge of the road next to small shrubs and bushes. Small patches of ice also hid in the darkness, and I had nearly landed on my arse twice since turning my back on the small hospital.

“Now I’m up for that game where we go back to the hotel and get some sleep,” Thomas laughed. He put his arm around my shoulders. “Phew. What a night, hey?”

I wanted to reply, but anger and confusion had spiked my voice. I exhaled a sharp blast of air, and hoped it expressed my indignation.

“I left her in the waiting room,” said Thomas. “It was empty and I didn’t want to talk to anyone, so I just left the note in her lap and pointed her out to someone mopping the floor.”

“We should’ve just left her alone,” I said, quickly. “But instead we stole her car, assaulted her, and then abandoned her in a hospital. Have you forgotten that the police still want us for questioning?”

“No they don’t.”

“What?”

I stopped and Thomas’ arm slid off my shoulder. “I think that only became true as I was daydreaming to the news. I was tired, after all.”

I felt like I’d been sucker punched. “They don’t want to question us?” I bought my hand up to the bridge of my nose to brace myself. “It’s like you’re playing Jenga with my mind, and if you pull out one more piece my whole sanity is going to come crashing down.”

“It’s not a big deal,” Thomas tried to reassure me. “I just thought what if they did want to question us. Wouldn’t that just make everything so much worse?”

My hands flew up into the air. “Yes! Yes it would make things so much worse!” I bawled. “Why would you lie like that?”

Thomas shuffled on his feet in a poorly coordinated moonwalk. “The emotional gravity of the idea just made it seem real to me. So, I took action, Matthew. Can you blame me for that?”

“You shaved our heads and put make-up on us! And you did it to me while I was sleeping! That’s a serious betrayal of trust.”

“Didn’t it make your heart race, though? Didn’t it make you feel invigorated with a clear sense of purpose?”

“You’re insane,” I said, marching passed him. “Fucking nutcase.”

“Hang on a minute,” Thomas called after me. “I’m beginning to think you’re not grateful for all I’ve done for you.”

These words stopped me dead in my tracks. I shifted to face Thomas and felt my fists tighten. “All you’ve done for me? Is that a joke?” I laughed, maniacally. “And what have you done for me, Thomas? Because the only things I can recollect are when you’ve continued to make life more difficult for me at every single turn.”

There wasn’t enough light to make out his features, but Thomas’ silhouette rapidly advanced and shoved me back a few steps. “Done nothing for you?” he yelled, incredulous. “Are you too cowardly to admit you’ve had the time of your life? It’s been an emotional rollercoaster, granted, but over the last few days, have you not felt alive for the first time in years?” He stepped to me so that our faces almost touched. “Did our love making mean nothing to you?” he whispered.

I angled my face away. “Yeah, well. Needs must,” I replied, defiant. I regretted the words as soon as they came out. Thomas shrank back on his heels, a cloud of cold breath painfully expressing his disbelief.

“I’m sorry, Thomas,” I said quickly, attempting to recover. “I didn’t mean that at all, I just wanted to hurt you.”

“Well, that’s so much better,” he seethed. Thomas pushed passed my shoulder and continued up the road. My mind raced, terrified that I had just irreparably undermined the strong connection we had built.

“Thomas, wait!” I said, catching up to him. I put my hand on his shoulder, but he shrugged it off. I grabbed both of his shoulders and turned him to face me, resting my forehead against his own. “I’m so sorry, Thomas. I’m just angry, and scared, and confused. And more than anything, I just want us both to get home, away from this madness.”

I felt Thomas resist. His body flexed to pull away from me, but I held fast. He relented to my embrace, and we stood in silence for five clear seconds, our heads resting against one another. “I guess that’s a difference between us, Matthew.”

“What is?”

“I don’t want to go back. The routine and banality of work and family life just leave me yearning for constant escapism. These last few days, I have felt unbridled and free. Yet, all you’ve wanted, the whole time, is to go home.”

“That’s not true,” I said. “I have enjoyed our time together. But forgive me when I say that seeing a dead body, getting kidnapped, and nearly dying in the forest, has left me a little homesick.”

Thomas placed his hands on my face and kissed my head. He then took my hand in his and we walked onwards towards the roundabout. “You find comfort in the familiar, Matthew. I don’t.”

“I thought you loved the familiar. You’re always making games and challenges out of rhythms and every day activities. I mean, Jesus, making phone calls is a game to you.”

“I don’t love to do those things. I am compelled to. Ever since an early age, I’ve always felt that my body was placed in the wrong environment. With all these parental rules, social customs, and the way I’m constantly in collision with the behaviour of other people. I wish I didn’t care and could just go with it, but I take personal offence and resent it. I’m constantly trying to personalize these rules to make them palatable. I put up pictures of bricks in my cubicle at work to break what was expected of me.”

“You can’t just roll with these things and let them go?” I asked, surprised. “Work pisses me off, all the time, but I just do it because I take comfort in making money to pay the bills, and on the evenings and weekends, I can do what I want.”

“I can’t just roll with it, Matthew. It’s like that part of my brain was never switched on. I have to waste so much energy re-contextualizing everything, just to function. And when I fail to re-contextualize, I get hit with these overwhelming depressions, and I can’t even get out of bed in the morning.”

We walked around the outer edge of the roundabout and began the two mile walk back to our hotel. The shadows of at least three hills loomed in the darkness to our right, and there were now hardly any cars on the road. The cold started to nip at my earlobes and was etching into my sinuses.

“Out here, when we arrived at our hotel,” Thomas continued, “I felt like a weight had been lifted. Everything was so new and exciting. The chance to have some real fun.”

I let go of Thomas’ hand and put my arm around his lower back. “We can’t stay here forever, though, can we?”

Thomas remained silent.

“Let’s just make one rule right now,” I said. “Get our arses back to the hotel, get out of the cold, and we’ll deal with the world in the morning.”

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