Here, let me try to describe what it was like to live in Kentwood the year after that summer. Let’s start by saying, this was not my first choice of dorms. I wanted Wells again. Well, I was supposed to want Wells again. It is where Sapphire and I had gotten together, and we put in for the same floors and even the same rooms, hoping to find the spot where we had sparked our romance. Instead, she was given Wells and I was given Kentwood. This was the nicest of the dorms. It had been a hotel before being bought by the college.
Rumors said Kentwood had been sold cheap because it was haunted. We got together one night, in a ballroom that was perpetually locked, so that we could talk about it by candlelight. We heard from the student who had been there longest and she told the stories that had been handed down to her.
These were the normal stories. Guests who had died in rooms we would live in. Parties that had never stopped even decades later. And I even heard there was a spiritual vortex in one of the rooms that they never let anyone into. They told us the floor where the room was supposed to be and we saw that a room-sized section of the wall sat where there was no door. There was a room across from it, but a wall had been built covering the door to that room.
This is the dorm I am living in.
We had an elevator, a dining hall, and a gorgeous lobby filled with antique furniture. It was a paradise, and for the same amount of money, the other students of the college were comparatively living like animals. This is the place where I would plan my next suicide.
Kentwood was the dorm reserved for all the older students who lived on the campus. It was actually off campus, with a shuttle that brought you back and forth to class. I met Randal there. Met Job and Anton. I met a lot of friends, and Sapphire stayed there almost exclusively. Kentwood did not have a policy of no opposite sex visitors so Sapphire lived in my dorm with Randal, she and I sleeping in my twin bed. Again, I had a bunk, and I draped blankets off the top to shut out all light.
Everything was fine. But I was screaming inside. I laughed, joked. I ran Dungeons and Dragons games. I made it to my classes and I let no one know how bad my depression was getting. Spending the weekend with Bekah was impossible. Being alone was impossible. I could not tell Sapphire that I wanted her to sleep at her dorm. So, I had someone with me at all times.
She was there when I got up in the morning. She was there after school, and she was there when I went to bed. Sapphire was in every facet of my life, sometimes even taking the same classes as me. I still ached for Bekah, and every time I looked up, I could see Sapphire standing where Bekah should be.
Guardian had broken after his meeting with Char. He felt as if he was lost. As if he had nothing to bear weight on. He needed Bekah, so one night he asked her if she wanted to go to the movies. They went to the dollar feature and saw something half way entertaining.
They were driving home when Guardian said, “I can’t get her out of my life. Thanks for coming to get me, I just needed a break.”
“If you can’t get away from her, and you want your life back, then why don’t you break up with her?” Bekah asked. He did not hear the anger in her voice. Did not hear the rage she had been holding for him for so long. Pent-up pain had made her even if just for this one moment bitter.
“I chose her and I can’t go back,” Shadow said. He shook his head. Trying to find a way to tell Bekah that her family would never give me a second chance. That we were done the moment he broke off the wedding. All that came out was, “I’m not a bad person.”
Bekah’s eyes never pulled from the street when she said, “I know you’re not a bad person, Jesse. You’re just a coward.”
Shadow pulled back hard. He was pissed and raging, but the words were radiating through my entire system and Guardian heard them.
He came forward. “What?” he said, holding back his sob.
“You’re not a bad person, but you are a coward. You can’t take control of your life. You can’t tell her to leave. You are just a coward,” Bekah said.
Guardian went cold. He sat for the rest of the ride in silence. When she dropped him off, he went straight up to his room without stopping to talk to Job and Anton on the patio. He slammed the door. He walked to his bed but he didn’t want to be in the dark. He turned on every light. The big overhead and the two desk lamps, but the darkness he wanted to escape was in his mind.
You are a coward.
You are a coward.
You are a coward.
Its original context was gone. It was not about his relationship with Sapphire anymore. Was not about the inability to reckon with his loss of Bekah. This was an old word. A word that had not come for him in a long time.
He remembered laying the ground, unable to get up after Char’s beatings and hearing Char shout that word over his head.
He thought of his talk with Char and how badly he had needed to pound on him. How he had planned to, when in the last minute he walked away.
He thought of the conversation with Hymnal and Vigil where they had sat in his house and called him the corruptor to his face, and he had been unable to fight them back.
He could not handle it. He could not stand the silence of the room and the constant repetitive assault of the word coming back at him again and again.
He doesn’t remember leaving. He didn’t have his coat and it was cold. We were deep into the semester and winter was coming on. He left the dorm and just started walking. Over and over he heard the word. Now it belonged to him. Now it was a part of him. Now he could not shake it.
Next thing I remember, Guardian had two forty-ounce bottles of beer and was sitting out in front of a gas station pounding one. None of us had ever drank before. None of us had any idea what this would do to us or what we were even like drunk. When the first bottle had been finished in less than five minutes, Guardian started on the next bottle.
He drank it all and walked back into the gas station. He slapped his money and an ID on the counter and walked out with a cheap, plastic bottle of whisky. He was drunk halfway through the bottle and we were off.
At this point, we had no idea how to get home. We were less than ten minutes’ walk from our dorm but we had no idea how to get there. We turned our feet for deeper into the city.
We cried. We wailed. One minute it was Guardian, the next Shadow. We sobbed as we passed people on the street. As we stumbled into traffic. We wept dark tears when we leaned against the walls to take in more whisky, and we kept walking.
Much of the night is blurred and lost to me, but I ended up in a laundromat. There was a pay phone and Guardian called the only number he had memorized. He called Bekah.
She answered with an apology and he began to talk. I’m not sure of what he said. I’m not even totally sure she picked up the phone. It may have been her machine that he sobbed out his response, but he did talk.
He talked about losing her. He talked about being in a hole. Then he called himself a coward and a failure. He finished by saying. “I know he is going to hurt her again. I know it. I can’t protect her. I can’t keep her safe.” He vaguely remembers being asked where he was. His answer was that he was in hell. Then he hung up the phone and went back to the streets.
He turned up in the neighborhood of Grand and Grant, across the street from the apartment. He found the park, dropped into the grass and sobbed. He wept and stared up at the cold sky. He knew he would not survive all of it. Not Char. Not Sapphire. Not Bekah or the demon stalking him. He would not be strong enough to beat it all back and keep himself alive because he knew at his core, he was a coward. It would take him in the end. In the end, all of it would kill him.
He was up again. He stumbled his way to a gas station he had walked to countless times during the summer before. He had wanted a banana smoothie, but as soon as he walked into the gas station, he had been asked to leave. He dropped on the curb of the gas station, held his head, and wept.
That is when they showed up.
I’m not sure how many there were. There were at least four of them, maybe as many as six. They were all very young. Probably one of them had just got her license and they were out joy riding. It is all so unclear. All of it just one big knot of pain and drunken haze, but I remember her face clearly as she grabbed my head in her hands and lifted my eyes to hers.
She was pretty, with brown hair and freckles. Her eyes were blue and she stared at me with horror and dismay.
“What is wrong?” she asked. She dropped to the curb beside me and wrapped her arms around me.
Guardian sobbed in her arms and shook his head. “She is gone. She is so gone. I can’t find her and I can’t get her back. I am lost. And she is lost and it is not falling right. And I can’t get back to her. And I’m a coward.”
By this time the other girls had found us and they were surrounding me. I heard soft young female voices cooing. Heard them talking but was unable to do anything but hold tight to this girl and tremble.
Then I was in a car. I was packed in tight, sprawled across the laps of three girls in the back seat with my brunette angel staring down at me, my head in her lap.
“Where is she?” the girl asked. “Where is the girl?”
I started to describe the building. Every now and then, the girl would ask me another question. Every now and then, I would spit out more incomprehensible nonsense.
I remember being taken to the door. I remember being held up by three girls. They knocked for a long time before trying the door and finding it open. They brought me into a dark house and followed my direction straight to Bekah’s bed.
I remember being laid down and my head being set up with the eyes staring at the ceiling.
“She loves you,” the girl said.
“How can you be sure? We messed it up so bad.”
“I heard you talk about her. I heard how she feels about you in your voice.” The girl kissed my cheek and smiled. “We are going to go. She is gone now, but she will come back. Talk to her about all of this when she does.”
I woke up in a bed with Bekah and Sapphire. They had both climbed into the bed to hold me while I sobbed and wailed. And that is the image right there. Me in pain and confused in Bekah’s bed, with her and Sapphire trying to comfort me. That is the very image of that part of my life. It is all of the issues wrapped into one.
This chapter is from Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 2: Normal Street.