Nick Carraway wished he could take back every word he had ever spoken against Gatsby.
The nights were the hardest for him, for a long time. He had moved from the West Egg and from New York in general. Though he had originally planned on returning home, he decided to board a train to nowhere in particular and let it carry him where fate wanted him to go. He thought it was an extremely naïve thing for a thirty year old man to do, but he had done many foolish things since he met Gatsby.
He remembered the cloudless blue sky and how it was tauntingly tranquil for a day where everything inside of him was falling to pieces. How can life go on for everyone else when Gatsby is cold and alone in a coffin and a bullet in his chest? Nick asked himself, his lungs restricting with anger and something else he couldn't possibly comprehend, until he threw the thought away. He figured it was silly to ask questions about life, especially about things that could never be changed.
He checked into a motel somewhere in Indiana a few days later and collapsed onto the uncomfortable cot, drained in every way he possibly could be. And for the first time he could remember, he broke into hysterical sobs.
He hated himself for that, but he hated himself for a lot of reasons.
For leaving Gatsby.
For reuniting him with Daisy.
For never telling anyone what Tom did.
And for a moment he screamed at himself for allowing the best man, the best human, he had ever met to get away, for allowing death to capture him, before his eyes widened as he realized what exactly he was thinking, and he forced such thoughts out of his mind immediately.
Gatsby was just Gatsby, and no one particularly important to me.
He repeated that sentence a thousand times a night as he counted the bright white stars, something he used to do as a child when he couldn't sleep. He didn't want to face the fact that the sentence was completely and utterly false. He didn't want to face whatever it was that choked him and left him sputtering in the dead, empty hours of the night, that left him starved and emaciated in every way imaginable.
When he woke up the next morning, a bleak, grey light filling the drab motel room, his eyes were red and crusted with dried tears and he licked his lips to find them chapped and salty. He washed his face quickly and chastised himself for such dishonorable behavior from a decent man such as himself.
He remained hidden away in the shoddy motel for an extended period of time he could only refer to as a mourning period. He lost track of the days and nights, he only knew that he had no motivation to do anything. He left the room only to eat and to pay his bill, and he ceased to do even those things after some time. He had never felt such hopelessness and desperation in his life. He had never felt such a longing to sleep and to never wake up because in his dreams there was a man he no longer had in reality. And he never hated himself more than he hated himself then, for those harbored feelings welled inside of him and weighing him down.
The inability to function was killing him almost as much as Gatsby's absence was. Nick had no idea how much Gatsby meant to him until it was too late. Until his bloodied body was floating in the pool, a ring of red surrounding his formerly immaculate body, his blond hair like a halo spread around him. And Nick had not yet came to terms with his self-loathing for that.
The only times his thoughts strayed from Gatsby, for a time too brief and yet far too long, were the times he found himself staring occasionally at the dull, grey sky and was reminded of Jordan's cold, deceitful eyes. And he ignited with fury at the memory. She dared call him a dishonest person.
And yet he was. He had lied to himself from the moment he met Gatsby. He had done everything in his power to remember him with scorn, to lie to himself, to lie through his teeth - or, rather, fingers - as he spent days on end seated at his desk with his typewriter, recording the tale of his escapades in New York, in the East Egg and the West Egg, in Gatsby's mansion. He didn't despise Gatsby. He never did. He despised Gatsby's love for Daisy, and for a split-second the word "jealousy" surfaced in his mind, but he quickly disregarded such an outlandish notion.
There was something about him, Jay Gatsby. Or James Gatz. The two of them, the entity, whatever it was. Something that Nick couldn't exactly explain, and didn't want to admit he felt. Something in him. It wasn't like Daisy's voice, full of money, or the way she bloomed for Gatsby. Money was a worthless and futile substance, Nick had learned, and flowers perished. Gatsby was full of warmth, yet mystery at the same time. Of passion and of high standards and of excellence. Nick couldn't place it, or understand it. In a way, the fact that Gatsby was a fraudulent businessman made Nick feel more comfortable in his own personal dishonesty towards himself. That was the one comfort Nick had been able to indulge in since the death of the man he-
He never could say it, not even to himself. He wouldn't allow it. A well-to-do man from a good family, a man who had fought in a war and received a respectable education, could never admit that to himself.
He longed so badly to rot away in that motel, to become the dust and bone he was sure Gatsby was by now. He was so humiliated. Too shamed to show his face. No one's mental state deteriorates as much as mine has due to the death of a friend, Nick bitterly told himself as grey snow powdered the windowsill of the Indiana motel. Well, maybe he wasn't just-
He stopped himself right then and there, dousing his damnable thoughts in an endless bottle of old whiskey. The alcohol became a temporary escape, an enjoyable experience in a world of misery, an unfair world of what-ifs and should-haves and a dead Gatsby and a living Tom. A moment of illumination in vast blackness. The last of his money was spent on the distractions. Alcohol first, and then pills, and then injections, and then a cocktail of the three he'd stumble through smoky alleyways in the unholy hours of the night to retrieve from men clad in black rags.
And one day, the moment of pure-white clarity spanned, endlessly and namelessly into a glowing horizon-
"It's been a while… How have you been, old sport?"