I released Teardrop Road on June 23, 2021. I think it was a Thursday. It was pretty devastating to put it out in the world on the big stage. Having your secrets on a blog is one thing. The worldwide stage opens up doubts and fears that I expected but could never prepare myself for. However, this release is a win. It’s a win for me. It’s a win for my family. For mental health in general. And I hope if you’re in pain and you’re going through anything, any kind of abuse, any kind of loss, I hope this book can help you and that you can see it as a win. I’m celebrating the release of Teardrop with another blog blast. These are chapters of the second volume of Reality of the Unreal Mind, called Normal Street. I’m releasing a chapter from that book every two hours and fifteen minutes. This is the story of Hollow Man. This is the story of how I figured out love through a series of heartaches and confusing episodes. Because love is not easy to navigate for anyone, and it’s almost impossible for a shattered mind to prepare for their soulmate. Here is Hollow Man 12: Precious Part 2.
We are going to stop off over here on our way to Destiny to show a bit of where Shadow and Guardian were, and where Harmony Church was when he got back together with Destiny.
For reasons unknown, that Sunday night we were not at church. My mother was sick, or the car was down. Something had happened that had stopped us, and I was sitting in my room my Junior year of high school when I got a call. It was Destiny.
“Jesse, we need you at the church,” she said. I looked at the clock, but church hadn’t started yet. Another ten minutes would lead us to youth class, then an hour, and then Sunday night service.
“What do you need? I am not coming tonight.”
“Blank just hit Precious and she is very scared. Can you come?” Destiny said.
Blank was Precious’s longtime boyfriend. She had started dating him after me and her had broken up. I didn’t like him. I kinda hated him. Years earlier he had dropped me as a friend because my sister dated him. She then broke up with him the next day and things had been bad between us ever since. I hated that he was with Precious and they had been off again and on again for a while. If he hit her, he needed dealing with.
Shadow jumped up with hate in his heart. Guardian felt tension in his fist. “Send Hunter to come get me,” I said.
Hunter pulled up and youth had already started, but he didn’t care. “You’re going to kick his ass right in the chapel, aren’t you?” he asked.
“Not at the church, but things can’t go any further,” Guardian said. Me and Hunter had repaired damage to our friendship after his sister and Lip, but we were still stressed.
“Want help? I can get him to follow me in the woods, then it is all over. I know every weed and blade of grass back there and—”
“Don’t need to kill him, just show him he is a coward.”
“What about Misty?” Hunter said.
Misty was a friend of mine. A girl who had crushed on me for a while. Very dramatic, and she was Blank’s sister.
“I won’t hurt Blank for her sake. I know how much she loves him, but I can’t let this stand. You see that, right?” I said.
“How is the drama?”
“Oh God, they did everything but pay me to get you out there. The lamentations, you could not imagine,” Hunter said. “They are always bad, but the Church Girls have lost their shit.”
We pulled up and I walked in. Suddenly, this wasn’t a place of worship. It felt more like a saloon. More like a place to do battle than a holy place. I promised I would not let it go that far and I went in.
As I was walking down this long hallway they had, in Brother Heaven’s extra wing of the church, I saw Blank come walking out of the class with a confident smile on his face.
“Oh, she called him,” he said with a laugh. “What do you think you are going to do about it?”
I let him get by me so I would not end up hitting him before I said, “Teach you you’re a coward,” He went quiet. “Then I’m done.”
I walked into the youth room and every one of the Church Girls gasped. They all looked at me like I was the Savior Himself. I walked over to Precious, and Destiny moved aside. I sat between them both and Precious took my hand. I looked across the room at Blank’s brother, younger than me but not small, and Blank’s big best friend. Also, in that crew sat the other kid. A new friend of Blank’s who had not been around long. Shine was beginning to pull close to him, but she was not sitting with him tonight.
Including Blank, there were four of them. Shadow grinned. He slid his hand to his knife and glared at the big one. In walked Blank, who dropped down with his crew, looked at me and smiled. He motioned to the boys around him and I scoffed. He smiled.
So did I.
We got out of the church, and me and all the Church Girls pulled to a distant set of stairs and they started talking. I looked at Precious. “Are you okay?” I asked.
“I am now.” She clung to me. I looked at those around me and saw the entire mob. There was Destiny, Shine, her twin sister, Misty, Precious, and Chanel. They all pulled in tight around me and I looked at the other side of the parking lot and saw Blank. He held his arms up in the air, inviting me to go to him.
“Don’t do it,” Destiny said. I took off my coat and handed it to her.
“Hold this for me.”
She quickly slipped it on. She looked like she had when we dated. Overwhelmed by the size of my clothing, though I wasn’t a big guy. I nodded to her and pulled away. The girls all called out, “No!” and reached out for me. The sudden flux of drama was deafening. I pulled back and Misty stepped in front of me.
“Please don’t hurt him, Jesse. He is just a dumbass, but he is a good person.” She looked scared.
“A man who hits a woman is a coward. Every time. I am just going to teach that to him,” I said. “I won’t hit him unless he makes me. If he does, I will unleash on all of them. I’m not sure what will happen at that point. I will give him a chance to get out.”
She hugged me. “I love you.” She muttered in my ear. I pulled back, looked at her and smiled.
“I love you, too,” I said.
Now, on the other side of the parking lot was a different scene. They all leaned against the big guy’s car, and as I walked across the church porch to get to them, Hunter appeared out of nowhere.
“You need me?” he asked.
“Not yet. Stay close. If this goes south I might call for you, but this won’t. He won’t hit me. He doesn’t have it in him.”
I stopped before them all and Blank looked at me and smiled. He felt untouchable So much swagger, so much attitude. He felt invincible with his crew. He knew I would not attack him. I had to change his mind.
I swept the group and saw that a new kid had been added. His tiny little brother had joined Blank’s group. I was sixteen at the time. The boy had to be no more than ten. I looked at the little boy and back up to Blank.
“You brought him?” I said. “This sad little group is not enough? You have to pull a kid into this?”
“Who you calling a sad little group?” the big guy asked. I’m not going to give him a name. He doesn’t deserve one.
I stepped up, standing directly in punching distance, and folded my hands behind my back. “You guys. You guys are the sad little crew.”
He turned his head.
“You’re not going to do anything in the church parking lot,” Blank said.
“You are leaning on a car. I have Hunter. He will skip church and we can go handle this right now. Right down the street is a gas station. We can kick this little beef over there if you want. Handle it real quick.”
“You need Hunter to help you,” Blank said. “That is pathetic.”
I turned to the big guy, swung to Blank, then to the bigger of his little brothers, the one within fighting age that I would not feel bad about punching, and I stared at Blank.
“Hunter can just drop me off,” I said.
“How will you get back?”
Shadow looked at the car they leaned against and pointed at it. “I’ll drive this piece of shit back to the church. You guys will be in no shape to operate a vehicle.” I looked at the little guy.
“Listen, little man, I know you’re a badass. I know you think you need to be here to defend your brother and be his guy. You don’t. I already know you would take a bullet for him. I already know you are loyal to the bone. You have nothing to prove to me or to him. He wants you to go.” I looked up at Blank. “Don’t you? He wants you to go because only a coward would march a child into battle.”
Blank waved the boy off. “Go on, little man. We don’t need you to take this guy down.”
The boy walked off and I looked up at Blank. “Now is the time when you get in the car. You drive to the gas station and I will meet you there.” I pointed at them, sweeping my hand across all four of his boys. “All of you.”
“Man, we got church,” Blank said. He looked away and I nodded at him.
“Thought so.” I turned my back.
“Don’t you turn your back on me,” Blank snapped.
I made a flippant little gesture with my hand and walked off. I joined Hunter on the porch of the church.
“How’d that go?” he asked.
“Exactly as you would expect,” I said. “He had his little brother with him.”
“That’s barely a smack right there,” Hunter said.
“I’m not going to hit a ten-year-old,” I said.
“He walks into a fight, he should expect to get hit,” Hunter said.
I looked behind me. Guardian felt someone walking up. I turned to see the pastor, Brother Haste, exiting the church. He looked over the parking lot and said, “Hello, Jesse.”
“Hello, Brother Haste,” I said. “You hear what happened?”
“I did. What are you going to do about it?”
“Nothing. Nothing will happen here on church grounds. I promise.”
“Well, Jesse, some guys just need an ass kicking every now and then.” Then, that man of God turned and walked back into the church.
I walked downstairs to the basement and heard talking and laughing. I walked into the fellowship hall and heard Blank on the phone. “Yeah, Pounder. We are going to need you to come on down to the church. We have a bit of a problem we need to take care of.” He looked over his shoulder and I stepped forward.
“How many people do you need to put between me and you, Blank? How many? Will these five do or will you need more? You have about ten minutes before church starts and you have to drive off of this parking lot. Call as many as you can. You’re gonna need them all,” Guardian said. He turned around and walked away.
When church was over, they ran off. D came to pick up his sister. When he saw me, I walked to his window and looked in.
“Hey, brother, how’s it going?” he asked.
“Blank hit Precious. I’m going after him,” I said.
“Where is he?” D said. He was furious. By now, he and Aimes had broken up, but I saw little of him. “He hit you?” D yelled to Precious when she got in the car.
“He did. I called Jesse and he came right away.”
“You didn’t call me?” he snarled.
“I knew you would be mad.”
“And he is not?” D said, pointing at me. “Tell your mom you are coming home with me,” he said to me.
I yelled to Hunter that I didn’t need a ride.
“You guys going hunting?” he said.
“Yeah. We gotta run.” I jumped in the van.
“Call me if you need to get rid of a mess,” Hunter said. I want to think he was joking but I can’t tell for sure.
“Where is he headed?” D said.
“He was going to the movies after church,” Precious said.
D grinned and curled his fist. “We got him.” He looked at me. “Hey, why wasn’t I your first call? You are going to go into battle without me?”
“There have been a lot of battles without you, brother,” I said. I almost cried thinking about his time with Aimes and how alone I had been.
He grabbed my shoulder while he drove and looked at me. “I know there have been, man. I’m going to make it up to you. It was fucked up to walk away like that. Love or no love.”
He really did make it up to me. I started hanging out with him and Aimes again after that. I told him that me and Aimes had been friends for so long I was not walking out on her. Said she spent a lot of time talking about how heartbroken she was, but I was not going to talk details. He told me he wanted me to help her, and he didn’t need to hear details. And then we hunted down Blank.
We watched the movie.
He saw us.
After the movie, we went to the parking lot and stood by his car. He didn’t come out until the movie theater was empty. The parking lot was empty, except the guy who was closing it up, and then that guy had to shove Blank out the door.
He only had one of his friends with him and the first words out of his mouth were, “I don’t want to fight.”
We scared him but didn’t actually hit him. When we were done, we told him to run, and he did.