And I Broke

Contributor: Jheri Brown

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Tick… tick…
My jaw clenches, the clock counting the seconds since I’ve seen him… or counting down to the holidays; whichever way you choose to look at it. I used to love clocks, now I despise their existence.
I hate time all together. I hate what it’s done to me, what it’s taken from me and how it’s destroyed me.
Another beat forces its way into my bones, shaking me to the very core. The music’s too loud and I’m starting to hate that, too. Everyone around me is dancing, drinking, relaxing and having a good time, but I can’t.
I refuse.
All I can do is stare at the car sitting in the drive. It’s a 60-ish something-or-other and while I used to enjoy watching him labor over it, I hate the fucker now. Plain and simple.
“Nina?” It’s Daniel, a mutual friend of ours. He’s tall, ruggedly handsome and annoying. Sadly.
“What?” I say. I don’t want to be bothered, everyone should know that by now, but I just can’t catch a freakin’ break.
He drops down to the cement steps next to me and holds out a beer. Daniel was his best friend -- but is faring far better than I. “I’m sorry,” he says. His voice is soft, an unusual thing for him and it almost hurts me.
“You’re not the first to bother me, Dani.” I’ve never been so cold with him -- with anyone. It gets quiet enough between us to allow me to hear another tick of my watch. “I’ll be fine,” I say. I just need to fill the silence even though I don’t want the company.
“I miss Rick, I hope you know. I mean,” he says, pausing to take a gulp of his beer. I think it’s more to force the lump that choked his words down than anything. “I didn’t expect it. I mean it was so fast.”
I feel his eyes burning a hole through me -- it’s one of the most irritating feelings ever, to be honest.
He shakes his head.
“No, you freakin’ tell me!” I’m angry, but don’t know why. The tears are burning my cried out eyes. I didn’t even think I could cry anymore, but here they come. They only piss me off even further and it takes all that’s within me not to hit Daniel for making me cry.
“You don’t talk, Nina. You hardly say ten words, let alone come in and just hang. It’s sad.”
“Sad? Of course it’s sad, asshole! Rick was my life, my heart, and he left me this hell hole.” My hands are shaking and I’ve moved from my spot on the stairs so I can start my nervous habit of pacing.
Daniel’s got his hands up, his beer a memory. “Look, I’m sorry. I just hate seeing you like this.”
My heart shatters and the cracks fill with a brutal mix of anger and sadness. Angry that Daniel is right and sad that I’ve allowed myself to fall into this darkness. The beer bottle falls from my hold and I do all that there is to do.
I scream.
I scream with such strength, determination and anger that it only takes seconds for my throat to go numb. The muscles of my chest tighten, making my breathing even more difficult, but I don’t stop. Each second that ticks by, each rattle of my straining vocal chords only makes me feel that much better.
Daniel moves to his feet and tries to comfort me, but I don’t let him. My heart is pounding, each beat making me want death. The cracks are almost breathing with my hurt and I hate it.
The car is still sitting there, Rick’s pride and joy -- second to me, he’d said -- and I hate it more than anything, now. I hate it because it’s the stupid fucking car’s fault he’s not here and I hate it because Rick isn’t here.
Reaching for the closest thing I can find, a broom becomes my weapon of choice. All the anger, the hate, the tears -- the car gets all of it.
“Guys!” Daniel screams for someone, but he’s so far away it seems.
There’s nothing but this damn car and me. I swing for headlights, the mirrors, windshield, anything and everything I can, screaming all the while.
Seconds turn to minutes and my arms into Jell-O. My breaths are rapid, chest rising and falling with each one, and all I can do is collapse. I’m a bloody, teary pile of mess and I’ve gathered a crowd.
A small laugh sounds, breaking the quiet “ooh’s” and “aah’s.” It’s my laugh -- a very unexpected one at that. My feet start moving before I’ve realized and the crowd pushes back, opening into a larger circle.
“Sorry,” I say. I’m still laughing and, frankly, I sound insane. “I...I just hate that fucking thing.”

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Jheri Brown is currently a full-time student and spends her down time filling sticky notes with the non-stop film reel that's called her mind.
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