A Certain Kind of Magic
"What are you doing here?"
"You looked like you needed some company,"
"Well I don't want any, get lost!"
"I know you probably don't want any, but you still look like you could use some,"
"I said get lost!"
"I'm not! Look, I know something is wrong here. You haven't spoken to anyone in weeks, or even reacted to anything said or done. And you've had this apathetic, yet somewhat determined look on your face that worries me…"
"So what? What I do is my own business. I-"
"And what do you plan on doing?"
"…That… that's none of your damn business…"
"It is if you are going to hurt yourself,"
"No its not! Who asked you to butt in?"
"Bull shit, when have I ever-"
"When our eyes caught and you looked like you were about to do something desperate,"
"… That wasn't for you to see,"
"Well, I did, and now I'm here, trying to help,"
"I told you I don't want your help,"
"No you didn't, and I'm here for you anyway,"
"What will it take to make you piss off?"
"Nothing, because I'm worried about you,"
"God damn it…"
"Please, let me in,"
On a sigh burdened with fading strength the older woman left her door ajar and retreated back into the dense shadows of her apartment. The young man stepped inside, gentle as candle's soothing flame, closing the door behind him. This was more for her preference of privacy than his own, so he felt it was the polite thing to do. He moved spectrally towards the end of the dark dwelling where he knew her bed was, waiting for his calf to gently nudge the plush side before flittering his body around and taking a seat softly beside her. They shared a silent moment before he spoke up again,
"What were you planning to do tonight?"
"Don't act stupid, you already know what I wanted to do,"
"Because… Because I hate myself and I want to die; because everyone else in the world hates me. Because the moment people meet me they can't stand me, or are afraid of me. Because I do this to myself, to others… because I'm angry, and… and… I don't know, I hate myself maybe?"
"I don't hate you,"
"Oh gee, one out of a million! Aren't you so special,"
"I mean it, I really don't,"
"Well, you should. Hell, even I admit you have every right to hate me more than all the rest!"
"I told you before, I forgave you, and besides a little jive or jab here and there, you haven't given me any new reason to hate you,"
"Yeah, well… I know that. And you know why too, I'm sure,"
"Actually, I never questioned it,"
"If you want to tell me, I'm all ear-"
"Why the hell are you being so friendly with me anyway? I don't care if you forgave me or not, but why? It's been bugging me these past few years, you never told me, never told anyone! People don't just forgive others for no good reason!"
"Well… at first I was thinking I wanted to understand why you hated me so much more than anyone else. What had I done to get under your skin? So I began to listen, to pay attention, to put all of the little hints together in what you say and what you do. Began reading between the lines of your actions, as it were. And I found a person there, someone wounded and spiteful, but also alone and-"
"I get it,"
"But you didn't let me-"
"I can put the rest together myself, so enough,"
"Alright… You know, you are a very intelligent person,"
"Thanks… I guess,"
"I mean it, I have always admired that about you, even when you used to bully me around when I was younger,"
"You're a funny kid, you know that?"
"I'm not a kid anymore,"
"You'll always be a kid to me, that's how adults are. Won't I always be that evil bully to you?"
"No, to me you have become a troubled individual who needs just a little understanding,"
"Come off it! What kind of sappy thing is that to say?"
"I'm serious, and I want to help,"
"Ugh! I told you before, I don't need your help,"
"No, you said you didn't want my help, but you can't honestly say you don't need my help,"
"You little smart ass,"
"I learned from the best."
That put a twinge of a smile on her dusky face, despite her annoyance; and she let out a trifling, ironic noise from her nose, "God, what have I done to you?... Alright, so just tell me what you want and we can get this over with, then you can leave."
"I already told you, I wanted to offer my company,"
"More like thrust it upon me,"
"Sometimes a good thrusting is what you need. I mean- err, I mean I didn't mean,"
He was only thinking to lighten the mood, but the moment he allowed those words to leave his mouth he immediately regretted it; especially considering the bewildered look shifting out of her perturbed face. Then, seeing how mortified his soft features were, she began to laugh. At first it felt strained and somewhat painful, as if she hadn't practiced something so jovial in months. But as the sound filled her dreary room it began picking up in strength. She went on and on, powerfully, to the point where it could infuse others with a twisted courage. Then, after tipping over the height of its strength, it began to falter, and renovated into a perverse mix of laughter and crying.
The young man's eyes lit up in wonder, never before hearing such a powerful and pure outpouring of emotion, let alone out of the woman who had once been such an ardent enemy. Though as her sentiments became more apparent, he realized that she was in pain, and should try to console her; so he put an arm around her, and let her cry into him.
"I don't need you," she eventually said, trying to push him away through ragged sobs, "I didn't ask for anyone to be here, to pity me. I don't want you to see me like this. I just want to die, alone, like I have always known."
"That's selfish," he responded, refusing to let her shove his light frame away, "and I don't care if you didn't ask for me, I'm here now and I'm going to help,"
"I hate you so much, why have you never listened to me?"
"Because I've always known better,"
"God I'm pathetic! I want to kill myself and the only person who cares enough to stop me is my worst enemy,"
"We aren't enemies anymore, you know that,"
"Sure, we haven't been at each other's throats in years, but we still resent each other,"
"I told you I don't hate you, me being here concerned for your wellbeing should be proof enough that I care about you."
She didn't respond to him, perhaps because she couldn't think of a sardonic enough response just then, or maybe she just didn't want to admit he had a point. Hell, more than once they had crossed paths in the last few years, and he had always been very cordial. At first she had went about treating him as she always had, mean and vicious; though seeing no fight in him she began to let up, eventually just tolerating his presence, then moving on to actually engaging him in conversation. He would even get her to laugh sometimes, a joyous action that had become so rare in her life. There was never anything profound between the two, but they had come to something like a mutual understanding, as if they were two warring countries that had somehow found it in themselves to call a truce.
"So," he began slowly after a minute without a word between them, "I can listen to any of your troubles, or just be here for you physically."
Her brows furrowed, "Physically?"
"Yeah… wait…" he inhaled sharply, realizing he had said something stupid again, "I-I didn't mean physically like THAT! I meant, um, not to say you aren't desirable. I MEAN, uh, not that you aren't pretty or anything. J-Just that, well…" he took a deep breath, noticing her look of exasperation and, wait, was that amusement? "I mean, I'm here for you as I am, sometimes it's nice just being close to someone who cares."
She looked off to the side, smiling sadly, "Physically… the last time I was with anyone physically was years and years ago, and it was anything but loving."
He remained quiet, seeing if this would be a story she needed to express, to help relieve all the weight pushing down on her.
"I was desperate, empty, needed something. He was some asshole that treated women like shit, very annoying, but no one else would have been willing. I figured he didn't know my number or where I lived, worked, anything. So it had to be safe, right? Went to the bar he got wasted at, let him notice me, take me home, use me. Then I stole a bunch of his stuff while he was out cold, and took off before he could wake up. I felt dirty, hated myself more. Even the money I got from pawning his crap didn't make me feel too great." She hung her head some, then took a deep and shuddering breath, as if to steady her emotions.
"Growing up sucks, kid," she said meanly, "but at least you still have your youth. How old are you now? Nineteen? Twenty?"
"Really? God, if that doesn't make me feel old. I'm just about thirty, and have nothing to show for it. Been out of school for ages, have a degree that isn't worth the paper it's printed on, shitty job, never been in a steady relationship. Yet it seems like only yesterday I was dreaming big, going to make a name for myself, get a great internship that would launch my career. I always had this feeling, like fulfillment, something that drove me to become great. I… I have this urge to be powerful. That I have to be someone important, and that life won't mean shit to me unless I can achieve greatness," she sighed, measured and heavy, reminding the boy of a deflating and worn out toy, "But no one wanted to take me in, give me a chance. The next thing I knew I had graduated, but wasn't welcome to any parties. My family wasn't even there. Just got my degree and went back to this shitty little apartment, staring blankly at my routine of websites. I applied to places, of course, but never even scored a phone interview. Couldn't even go back home a failure, I'm not welcome there. My own fault, really…"
She was gripping tight to his clothes, breathing heavy, trying not to break emotionally again.
"So, you haven't been in love?" The young man asked, a great unseen guilt driving him to move away from her career, "Ever?"
"Been in Love?!" She yelled scornfully, "Don't you get it? Right now, this is the closest I have ever been to another human being emotionally. Haven't you been paying attention? People HATE me. And now I hate myself too."
"But I remember, back when I was a kid, didn't you used to-"
"You mean chasing boys? When I was a teenager? Yeah, I would try back then, but do you remember me ever going steady with any of them? For longer than a day, even? No, I was never given the chance. I'm first-date-dump material," she exhaled slowly, still trying not to get too riled up, "I can't blame any of them though, I mean look at me! Just a spiteful, cruel, greedy, ugly bitch."
"Stop that!" he protested, "You are not cruel anymore, I have seen you change that about yourself these last few years."
"Yeah, only because I have barely had anyone to treat cruelly."
"And," he cut in firmly, "You are far from ugly. You know you are too. So don't say that about yourself."
"What are you on about now? You know people don't find me attractive…" she said rather quietly.
"I know most are put off by your… demeanor. But if you are given the chance I think others would see that you can be a fun, intelligent, meaningful, and beautiful woman."
"… Is that how you really see me? Or are you just saying that to make me feel better?"
He smiled slightly, "I am saying it to make you feel better, but I also really believe that too."
She let her lips curl up a bit, "No wonder you keep getting friend zoned, you are way too sappy."
"Hey! That was uncalled for."
"No, it's true."
"I don't keep getting friend zoned!"
"Oh yeah? Then why are you here trying to comfort me instead of enjoying the company of some sweetheart?"
"Because your need is more-"
"Bullshit! It's because you don't have anyone else who would spend their lonely nights with you, right?"
"I'm not here because I'm lonely."
"No, I'm here because you need the company, not me."
"Would you stop messing around? I'm trying to help you."
"You sure you aren't here to mess around?"
"Maybe that's why you are really here. Because you don't have anyone else to spend your time with, and thought if you said the right sweet words you could take advantage of me, then have your way with me."
"I would never do that! You know me!"
"Oh, right, you lack the initiative to be anything more than a shoulder to lean on, I must have forgotten."
"Would you stop attacking me? I'm trying to help you."
"I'm not attacking you; I'm trying to provoke you. There is a subtle difference. Course, it's apparent you lack subtlety."
"Provoke me? Provoke me into what?"
"Seeing just how beta you are is all. You know, any other man might have taken my words as a challenge to his manhood, and then try to take initiative and force himself upon me."
"I doubt any other man, maybe a few thick ones, but I know better than to try something like that with you-"
"Oh!? So it passed your mind?"
"What? No, of course not!"
"'Of course not'?" she raised a stern eyebrow, "I thought you just said I was beautiful, and you are not the type to get friend zoned."
"What are you playing at? Or is this more of you trying to provoke me?"
"Stop being 'thick', you haven't let go of me this entire time. Then you say sweet nothings to me, and assert you aren't friend zone material. "
"…The way you turn a situation… Fine, you want me to let go? Even though I was only doing it because you said you were feeling lonely and unloved,"
He began to disengage from her form, but was halted by her sudden and strong grip on him.
He did, hearing the urgency in her strained voice.
"I'm… I'm not good at this opening up thing. You know that, right? I just… I didn't feel comfortable letting you be a pillar of strength for me, so I took some cheap shots."
"Are you apologizing?"
"Tch, you know I never apologize," she said half-jokingly, "No, just… just telling it like it is."
They remained quiet for a long while, he sitting back down and supporting her, she latched onto him, both of them listening to the breeze flutter through the leaves outside, which created a gentle tune to play alongside their out-and-out thoughts. Finally, after she corrected her posture and moved away from his body, though keeping a hand on one of his, she spoke,
"It was, well," she inhaled heavily, held the breath, then released it, "It was a very nice gesture you showed me, not taking no for an answer and being here for me, I mean."
He clasped her hand gently, and though she did not return the act, she also allowed it without withdrawal.
"But at the same time, if for whatever reason I survive into my thirties, you do know that you will have to pay for all the disobedience tonight, right?"
A small grin graced the young man's face, "You know, I think that would be a pretty fair deal. So, what would be the price?"
"Yeah, you know, that I will have to pay?"
"Oh, right… well, what did I used to make you do for disobedience?"
"Umm… I remember a lot of scrubbing. Oh, and you used to make me rub your feet, because of how they made me squeamish. Guess I got ov-"
"Oh crap, I forgot about that!"
"Huh? Oh, the feet thing?"
"Yeah, they weirded you out so bad! Man, where you a strange kid or what?"
"I guess so; though look at what I had for parents! Besides, I got over it."
"Still, who gets grossed out by toes?"
"Kids who were forced to lick the dirty feet of people who would kick them until they vomited, that's who…"
"Ah… I didn't, I mean, I don't… Well, I was just sort of angry back then, you know that. And you were, um, kinda small, even for your age," a mingled look of regret and frustration flittered across her face as she turned away from him. Her lips tightened together before she made a small, harsh exhale through her nostrils.
"Listen," the boy began gently, "I didn't mean to be so rude about-"
"Can it," she said to the dark ground, "I don't think… No, I know it wasn't meant to hurt me too bad. But I'm kind of a broken creature, understand? I have been through too much, and put others through a lot of the same. I'm not proud, really, in the end. So, um, when you retort it just stings. I know that sounds unfair, but that's just how it is."
"Well, I'll just be sure to make you laugh more then. How about that?"
She remained silent to his optimism for a pregnant time span, and didn't respond until he was about ready to open his mouth again, resulting in what had to be the twentieth time he had been cut off. She couldn't help it though, for something had slid inside her mind and clicked into place.
"Make me laugh…"
"Uh- um, oh?"
"You do, don't you?"
"You make me laugh."
"Well, yeah, because I think it's a great thing."
"Making me laugh is a great thing?"
"Oh, yes, that too. But I meant laughing in general."
"It's fun… but why do you feel it's great?"
"Eh, this will be me sounding corny again, but I think there is a certain kind of magic in laughter."
"Yeah, think about it. When you genuinely laugh it fills you with a light, uplifting feeling. And this feeling just makes all else seem unimportant, it drives away the negativity from your mind because it is such a powerful emotional response. Oh, and it can be contagious too, so everyone else around can feel that elation, and then maybe join in. It unites people, and diminishes the power of anything serious around it. It heals broken hearts and relieves stressed out minds. So... yeah, it's powerful, a kind of magic."
She blinked a few times, then turned her head back toward him, "And you make me laugh."
"Err, I'm glad to hear it," if truth be told, then he was a smidgen unnerved by how plainly she stated the fact.
She was now fixating her gaze to his own, disallowing the breaking of eye contact, "Are you really?" And in her eyes, something deep, something filled with urgency and apprehension.
"I suppose…" he whispered now.
"Suppose? Or are you?"
"What do you mean 'why?' I like making you smile."
"Yes, but why do you?"
"I don't know… it just…"
"It just feels… um…"
Her face had been inching closer to his own, and he was only now realized it, "Go on…"
"It feels like the right thing to do. It makes me happy, because when I make you laugh I… uh… Vicky?" she was extremely close now, the tip of her nose almost touching his own.
"What are you…" He trailed off, for her hand now gripped his tightly.
"I don't know what I'm doing, I just want to be close to you for some reason. Maybe because I was going to kill myself, and this is somehow my last chance at having some fun before I go?" She didn't allow him the chance to process her words, and closed the distance between their lips.