The third person is how I usually write. Call it a training session. I dig this story and I hope you do too<3
The Secret Side by R.E. Bearlee
Paul Jones opened his eyes and in an instant he was pulled back to full reality. The night was still the same night he left when he slipped into slumberland. The shadows were the same but his body position was not. As he sat up and looked at the clock he wondered if he dreamed anything. He was grateful that at least some time had passed. In the darkness he filled his lungs with air and sunk back under the covers. He held the lungful in as he drew the sheets over him. In the haze of the almost sleep he felt like he was layered in darkness. He felt like a mummy; an out of place creature. He lay perfectly still with his legs straight and together. His feet pointing toward the ceiling, they were two little hilltops side by side among the waves of fabric.
He did not get out of his bed; deciding that it would set him back on his march to restoration.
Paul felt the tug in his mind, the gentle suggestion that whispered you could get up now ya know. in his own voice but so much softer.
A dreamless sleep. One remembers brief moments of being awake, for Paul it was brief moments of re-adjusting in the dark with red numbers in the background. Paul sighed or gasped depended on what the red numbers said. The sound of a persistent fall breeze ruffling trees usually lured Paul back into sleep. The winter wind howling through the freezing, the rattling of windows it could causethis too could lure him back. Now however there was no going back to the blissful nothing that was a dreamless sleep. Now he had all the somethings of the day to dance around and he felt he must wind himself up. As Paul slowly stirred and ran his hand through his hair he reminded himself that today was all his. Pauls eyes slowly moved like great wooden gates as he scanned his room. The morning light cast a soft glow on the sack of dirty clothes in the corner and cast a kind light on the stack of quarter read through books on the dresser. Paul had responded to the tug, the mental cue but still he was not up yet. He let his head drop back on the pillow and closed his eyes, determined not to hold on to any thoughts flowing through his head for just a little while.
Paul stumbled a few feet into the bathroom and the silence upstairs jarred him awake just a bit more. His sister must be gone and his father was either downstairs or gone too. The tan bathroom floor tiles were cold as Paul strode across them with bare feet. Paul stared at himself in the mirror and felt vain as Nero. If you asked him to describe himself hed say:
Ive got that olive toned skin and a big nose. My eyes are green and my hair is black. Im not fat and Im not short. My grandmother always told me I looked like Clark Gable.
Which would be pretty spot on. His face was slender and his nose very ethnic. Angular, sharp and beautiful. He had the languid slender frame that screamed I do not play sports. His hair was wavy. It was a black curtain that stopped at his eyebrows and where his ears ended. The cream curtain slid up to reveal two green irises surrounded by the redness of an uneven sleep
As Paul bent over the bathroom sink brushing his teeth he thought of maximizing his free day. He thought of squeezing enjoyment out of the day he wasnt reporting to the place of employment. As Paul spat he looked up at himself in the relatively clean mirror and wished all his days were free. They were but why didnt it feel like it?
Paul slithered down the steps blinking and scratching as he smelled his mothers fresh coffee. He heard the distant chatter of a television. He took slow steps into the kitchen wondering what mood his maternal unit was in.
Good morning. The voice he heard was pleasant and alert. His mother was on the couch with her mug and robe that had cute cows all over it. Paul thought to get a glass of milk while he answered his mother.
Good morning! He tried to replicate her enthusiasm but his voice came out husky and still asleep.
Mrs. Edith Jones didnt ask her son if he was hungry because she knew he never had an appetite in the early morning. She continued sipping coffee with her long straight hair tied behind her. The expression on her moon face was one of quiet anticipation as she watched her show. A few pictures of venerated relatives were the only ornaments on the white walls. No pictures of the saints because the Jones family was lazily Protestant. No silly sayings because Mrs. Jones thought of things like that as clutter. The kitchen floor had been swept and the dishes done the night before.
The television in the living room broadcasted a nonfiction murder drama; just the kind Mrs. Edith Jones liked to watch. The kind that were 30 minutes or an hour with mug shots and re-enactments. With chilling background synthesizers and that zoom in on a still picture documentary style shot. Paul sat down with his bowl of Captain Crunch. Mrs. Edith Jones sat on the couch while Paul sat at the kitchen table behind her munching away.
Where did we go wrong? Mrs. Jones said without looking behind her.
With what? Paul liked to drag out his own torture, handling it like a status quo diplomat in between bites of sweet nothing.
Paul swallowed with closed eyes as the television yammered on about how the police found the body.
Paul a lot of your classmates have graduated and have good jobs now. They are successful. Dont you want to be successful?
Conversations like these used to end up in passive aggressive snark fests. As Paul chewed he was grateful he had grown up somewhat. As the camera held on the face of a retired officer describing the condition of the body Paul thought of the most appropriate response for his mother.
I need to cultivate successful habits. Success is a result of having integrity, regular practice and finishing things you start. Thats why I havent graduated yet, I didnt have successful habits before.
Paul spoke with a blank face and his words were flat through his monotone. The moment he finished he gathered a heaping spoonful of crunchberries. He was also trying to hold back the wave of sadness washing over him.
Well what youre saying sounds really good but it is just talk. Youve wasted our time and my money. Your cousin Susan is 3 years younger than you and shes about to start medical school. How do you think that makes me feel?
Paul cleared his throat as he watched the alleged killer squirm in the interrogation room. All the muscles in his body felt dormant and heavy. He thought about how silly he could be with the conversation he was having. He thought about how indignant and snotty he could have been at this moment; how he used to be at moments like these. He knew he had already decided to be nothing as he silently tipped his bowl back to drink the delicious remaining milk from his cereal.
We shouldnt measure ourselves by other people. He stated with dull eyes as he set his bowl back down and smacked his lips.
Then how should we measure ourselves son?
Paul didnt say anything, he just got up with his empty bowl and spoon and walked over to the sink. He hoped his mothers loaded question would wither away unanswered.
We just wanted so much for you Paul. We had high hopes for your success. Mrs. Jones voice was subdued and resigned. It carried the weight of words said so often ones voices was lowered along with the speakers spirits. Paul stood at the sink trying to re-direct his train of thought. He didnt know what feelings were appropriate when his mother spoke of him as if he were finished. The anger he felt was dull and cold above his stomach when his mother spoke to him as if he were washed up. He was past being angry with the hidden tone of death. He only felt a distanced sorrow for something vague he knew was missing in so many people.
Im not dead. He wanted to holler at her. As Paul stared at the white kitchen walls he missed the fruit basket wallpaper he grew up seeing. As the television rambled on about a pattern of prior convictions Paul wondered what Lucy was doing at the moment. He wondered how you could be washed up before you even really started.
Dont you want your father and I to be proud of you?
Paul winced as he sat back down in time to see the grainy overhead camera footage of a stammering interrogation room confession. Paul felt like a criminal that couldnt recall his crimes. He was in the dimly lit room of his mind; with men in moustaches and ties pointing at pictures that he couldnt make anything out of. Paul then felt foolish for relating himself to actual criminals.
I think you could be proud of me for being a decent person. Im not a saint but I try to do right by people. The words came out like how he felt: drained. Soggy conversation leftovers. He wondered if no one saw his merits did they still exist? He knew they did but why did it feel like a lie?
Ill see you later mom. Im going to spend time with my friend. Paul hated all the things he left unsaid during these conversations. He had come to learn with certainty that silence hurt everyone the least.
Are they doing something with their lives? Are they headed in positive directions? She asked as Paul walked toward the garage.
No one is positive all the time Ma. The garage door groaned open and Paul stepped into the weak sunshine. He fumbled for his keys confused about the vague thing he felt missing inside. Can you miss something you never had? He attempted to think about something else and ended up thinking about the girl he liked as he opened his car door. He frowned as he looked inside because there were candy wrappers and compact discs everywhere. He smiled a second later as he thought of friends of his that left food and other gross shit in their cars. Contentment through comparison! The old Im not as bad as ____ that satisfied so many losers for the entire history of mankind.
I gotta clean this up before she gets in. Paul muttered to no one as the sun half assed his job.
Its likeIm full of life you knowand I want someone to have the same vibe as me I guess. Yeah thats it. I have a full throttle vibe-
But you usually go in half cocked. Paul felt a tinge of rudeness on his part, it felt similar to the cool breeze blowing through them on this cloudy day. The two of them sat on metal bleachers watching the clouds darken and swirl. Paul and Lucy. She almost ignored what Paul said.
Lucy had a ton of curly red hair that she usually straightened before going out. At will it could have been a veil or a halo. Her eyes were a pale green and she always looked like she had a delightful secret just behind her smirk. She always looked like she wouldnt tell you no matter how much you asked, smiling all the way through.
No I dont! I can read people. Like I was saying thoughyou have a different vibe.
Lucy reached out and put her slack hand on Pauls knee. Paul felt like she only did this when she had something she thought the listener would find unpleasant.
I like it dont get me wrong. I feel like you calm me down. I just want something else too.I need passion!
As Lucys hand slid away peacefully Paul remembered he had never seen her perform these moves on anyone else. He felt special, in an Im honored you picked me to be your sucker sort of way. Like she were treating him as if he were fragile. He carefully held in his grimace as a kid got hit in the shoulder by a softball across the field.
You cant see my passion? Paul was inclined to say more but he decided not to make a deal out of it.
I dont doubt your passion for all that stuff you do. But listen to me
Lucy paused to stroke the side of Pauls fade. She felt the stubble of an irregular shaver and she felt the warmth of a person that cared for her beneath it. Pauls heart fluttered and his thoughts stuttered but his quietly expectant eyes never left Lucys calm ones. Her face looked as if she were going the extra mile of tenderness. As if she were choosing the words that only pricked a personality instead of stabbing it. Paul could appreciate but he took slight offense. He was not a child, a madman or a dull headed coward. As Lucy pulled her hand away and looked at the sky Paul wanted to tell her that she could never hurt him with the truth. He decided to save the proclamation for another time.
We are very different. I enjoy it but if we rush this between us the whole thing will fall apart very quickly. Im not saying I dont like you. Im saying those feelings dont develop as quickly for me as they do for you. Give it time you bum!
Laughter exploded from Paul. Genuine head tilting squinty eyed laughter. It did not last long but Lucy laughed at Paul laughing. A kid playing softball turned to look at them and missed catching the ball that would have outed the player whizzing past the base he was supposed to protect. His teammate scowled at him but the kid wasnt looking in that direction.
I understand! Paul exclaimed with a giant grin. As he nodded with the nodding Lucy he thought about how she really was too beautiful.
Im thirsty. Lets get out of here. She stood up and fixed her plaid skirt.
We should get something to eat. Paul stood up and stretched his arms. An involuntary yawn harmonized with metal thumps.
Im not trying to spend money. She shot him a phony fierce glare and stepped off the stairs unto the grass. Her arms swayed with her hips, of course Paul noticed.
Who said anything about spending money? Im going to whip us up some rice and broccoli. Paul sprang off the bleachers to catch up.
No chicken with it? Seems like chicken would be the perfect addition. She turned and looked back at him while she walked. Paul couldnt completely read the look she was giving him but the smile was enough.
You dont like meat!
But you do! She laughed again. Pauls heart fluttered again.
Doesnt mean I want to eat it all the time.
The Well I guess Id better be going now from Lucy triggered the throat clearing and the dishes being placed in the sink from Paul. As he washed his hands Lucy picked out her jacket from the closet and put it on without removing the hanger. The hug on the porch was polite but hurried; well meaning but restrained. There were no neighbors milling about on the street or the street across. The clouds seemed thinner than before.
I had fun today.with you. Paul didnt mean for it to sound funny but he smiled when Lucy chuckled. The chuckle was faked.
I had fun too. Lucys phone beeped once somewhere in her giant purse as she spoke. As she reached into her multi-colored bag Paul cut things short.
Have a good day! Ill call next week. Or in a few days. Lucy mumbled something in agreement as she strode down steps and walked toward her car, hips still swerving and eyes still in her purse.
Paul turned and opened the door, his mind beginning to focus on the mindless chores ahead of him. He was wondering whether to clean the bathroom upstairs first or sweep the kitchen when Lucy stopped suddenly and turned.
Bye! She shouted, smiling big and blowing a kiss. The hand that blew the kiss transformed into a hand that waved goodbye. The other hand held a phone that was rising to her ear.
Paul turned and waved from inside the house. As he closed his front door he heard the door open to Lucys seasoned sedan.
Yeah? Lucy tossed her purse somewhere in the empty passenger region as she sat. She looked at her reflection in the rear view mirror. Then she checked on her teeth (no food in between) and her hair (still in place). While she did this a voice booped in her ear in fast flat tones.
Im just leaving Pauls house. Yeah that weird guy. The car started without any trouble. Lucy swept a bit of hair behind her ear as her friend complained about something.
Hey dont be a bitch. Hes a loser but hes not an asshole. Its obvious how lonely he is and I like to keep him company. Hes a nice guy ok you havent met him. Lucys friend hasnt met Paul but she remembered all the things Lucy said about him. A plush cat smiled eternally in the back window against thick grey clouds.
Oh, will Raul be there? Really thats what he said? Lucy smiled big as she put her car into reverse. Inside the house Paul heard Lucy drive away and sneezed while washing dishes. Now that she was gone Paul anticipated his upcoming nerd spree with a silent glee. Hey that rhymes.
Pauls eyes scanned the shelves of new releases. There was the usual parade of inappropriately costumed female heroes. There were books that had the urban gun toting hardass; the trench coat seemed optional for the archetype these days but the cover lettering was consistently gritty. He glared at the million X-Men issues and the countless Wolverine rags while yawning internally.
Yeah Wolverines cool and allbut Marvel has halfway played him out. Too much attention I figure. He has too many books and why did they have him join the Avengers?!
The voice Paul heard behind him was low and familiar. Paul turned around and faced a lanky young man with dreadlocks in his face. He was the kind of guy that you havent seen in too long. He was the kind of guy one heard so little from it was assumed the friendship/relationship/partnership/coven was polite, shallow and over. It was Reginald Eric Brown, II and for him it was never over.
You should say hi or something first I didnt know you were behind me. Paul was annoyed with the idea that anyone could sneak up on him like that. He turned back around and continued looking at covers of lesser-known, generally more interesting alternative comic books.
Hello Paul! It is I your pal Reginald. Reg chuckled as he reached out a brown hand to pick up an issue about maladjusted young adults with little guidance concerning powers they cant control. In case the reader was wondering Reginald Brown (no. 2) has ancestors that came from somewhere in Africa. He liked to think he has ancestors from other places too. He was a genuine chocolate face. He was wearing khaki pants and an ugly stripped sweater.
Reg grimaced at the cover of some Punisher issue bored with the naked aggression, trench coats and guns. Why couldnt the Punisher be depicted napping peacefully for once? What about a cover with Frank Castle feeding a litter of kittens?
Do you read Young Liars anymore? They slowly strode the aisle not looking at each other only staring at the nerd fodder. At the counter 25 feet away a customer was arguing about how he should get more money for his action figure because it was in mint condition. His voice had a stereotypically nasal quality to it.
No I stopped after it got too crazy. Then broke down a couple months later and got the last few issues. I liked how it was a one shot deal. Reg frowned as he answered. I can dig people losing their memory and having fake memories instead. I can deal with secret alien invasions. I cant deal with someone having their head chopped off and showing up next issue as if nothing happened. And with no explanation either?! What the fuck. I cant support that.
They continued talking about comic books and briefly about video games as they strode the earth toned carpet of the comic book store. From floor to ceiling there was geeky shit everywhere. Action figures older than half the customers were still sealed in their packages. They were displayed out of reach but then again so was most of the stuff in the store because there was simply too much of it. You dont care about this part of the story.