Between You and Me — A collection of 12 Short Stories

Zachary Spears
Sep 8 · 28 min read

Preface

Last edited April 9th 2016, Between You and Me was my attempt to write a collection of short stories in my late teens. These stories which are more or less autobiographical represent my struggles seeking love, navigating kinship, and growing up in the Midwest. Originally I intended to write enough to fill a book of short stories, but I have decided now, over three years later to publish them on Medium instead. While publishing a book of short stories has not been removed from my bucket list, I feel these stories belong together in the format they were originally written. Due to this, I have not done any additional editing to the text, or format except to transfer it from iBooks Author to Medium.

Additionally, some of these stories were performed as spoken word songs, these have been included where available. For additional information on the recordings see the full tracks on Soundcloud.

I hope you Enjoy.

Between You and Me Book Cover Design
Between You and Me Book Cover Design

This book is dedicated to the wandering hearts
May you find what you seek

Ballad Story Cover
Ballad Story Cover

BALLAD

Quiet blue waves gently push a small sailboat back and fourth across the passive sea. Toes touch on a hardwood deck that is barely large enough for the resting couple. A 26 year old boy and his female accomplice soaking in sunburns without a care in the world. A turntable sits by the tied mast whispering mariachi music.

The girl, wearing only an elegant blue swimsuit coverup slowly stood up and let the garment fall to the boat revealing her skinny, curved figure. The boy looked up just soon enough to catch the back of her head as she shook her long silver hair in the breeze. She then took a dive, gliding through the air with such precision that she did not make a splash. As she sailed under the clear waves with the sun glinting off their surface, she closed her eyes and let the serenity of the moment hold her.

Back on shore, a vacant lot alerts authorities to a missing vessel. Faceless people flock around the peer, scouring for anything to make their jobs easier.

Life is a celebration of existence,
the universe wanted a way to appreciate itself.

An Evening Out Story Cover
An Evening Out Story Cover

AN EVENING OUT

I am sitting in a sushi restaurant, it’s not too classy but it is nice and the prices reflect it. The ambiance is good, though the music is on a loop and I can’t imagine how annoying that is to the wait staff. Speaking of whom my waiter is way too friendly, he does his job so well it’s uncomfortable. He should really be a politician, and I want to tell him that, but I won’t. The etiquette is clear in a “fancy” restaurant, and I will follow it because of the girl that is sitting across from me. Her name is Sarah and she is telling me about how she is studying to be a scientist, though I cant say I’m following the conversation. Its not that I am uninterested in her, its that I am uninterested in the use of microorganisms to convert an added chemical to a chemically modified form. I hate to say it but I really just don’t care. I am too caught up in how the dim lighting in the room allows the Christmas lights strewn across the far wall to illuminate her face, it’s almost angelic. I want to tell her that she talks a lot but it’s probably not true, the reality is she is holding the conversation because I am an asshole and cannot think of anything worthwhile to say. I would talk about myself but she wouldn’t want to hear about me. I live at home, fail at relationships, am artistically and educationally under-challenged and unengaged. I am a pessimist and the only thing that keeps me from being depressed are my friends, who are all stoners. The worst part is I have never had an intelligent conversation with a single one of them. Its not that they aren’t bright individuals, its that they are always intoxicated so they never come up with anything worthwhile to say either.

The date is going poorly and its my fault. It’s not that I don’t like her, and its not that she isn’t beautiful. The fact is it’s really not that I don’t like her, it’s that I don’t want her to like me. I’m afraid she will like me because I don’t know what to do if that happens. I know what you’re thinking too, “Then why go on the date?” Well it wasn’t my call. She asked me, and I wasn’t going to be an asshole and say “no”. The downside though is that if this date does go poorly and she doesn’t like me, everyone’s going to attribute it to the fact that I am a sexist. And I’m not. I swear to god I’m not, I just don’t want her to like me.

The waiter brings our food. There are little sushi circles set out across a large white plate. Each sushi piece is very fancy with its own topping and sauce. It looks so good that I will feel bad eating it, but you cannot let good food go to waste, or so the saying goes. She makes a comment about how good it looks, and then starts eating. Finally, silence. I no longer have to worry about thinking of a response that doesn’t make me sound like a fucking idiot. I take the first piece of sushi to my lips and eat it, all the while praying that it wont fall to my lap and make me look like even more of a fool. I did that once on a date. Prom night, at a fancy ramen place. Ever since I was a little kid, once in a blue moon I will have a bit of a spasm, like turrets but super mild, and usually just in my hands. I have never been worried about it because they are really rare and never last more than a split second, but that is all it takes. As it turns out it happened to be the split second while a spoon full of ramen soup was on its way to my mouth that my hand decided it was a good time to freak the hell out. Thus ramen sauce fell all over my brand new suit. My date turned out to be a basket case but it didn’t matter, it was really embarrassing and it made me feel like crap.

They say that in order to be ok in a relationship you have to be ok being by yourself. I have always hated when people say that too me because it assumes that I’m not ok with myself, because believe me I am. I am in fact too ok with myself. I am so ok with myself that I am terrified of being with someone. I am scared to not be alone, don’t get me wrong I hate being alone, but I am afraid to let anybody in. I am afraid they won’t like me, and I don’t mean the “me” on the outside that everybody sees. I am talking about the real me, who I really am on a fundamental level. I don’t think I could take that. So that’s it, I am a coward.

We Finished eating and the waiter brought over the check, Sarah offered to pay for herself but I declined. She says I don’t need to be chivalrous but I tell her its not about that, I am just trying to be nice. I slipped more than enough money in the bill and set it out for the waiter. I always make sure to have more than enough cash with me now. I went on a disaster date once where all I had was my credit card and the restaurants servers had gone down. I had to ask her to pay, it was horrible. There was this game that I used to play on my phone back when I was in High School, and it attempted to simulate the “High School” experience. In the game I was dating a goth girl and I screwed up every date we went on, but she stayed with me. Real life is not like that, when all you have is a card and you can’t pay for your meal while on a date, you will never see that girl again. I certainly did not.

We got in the car and I drove her home, she had to be back by 11 and it was 10:30. She was talking again on the way back, she was describing her family and siblings to me. I think she is trying to get me to open up about myself, but I wish she would not try. I don’t want to be an open book. We got to her house and I got out of the car, as did she. She said she had a nice time. I’m glad she did because she deserves a nice time, but it worries me too. She then paused for a bit and blushed, leaned in and kissed me on the cheek.

FUCK. GOD FUCKING DAMNIT.

Well here goes nothing. I swear to god time itself is slowing down. I lean in and kiss her on the lips, I mean it’s really more of a peck than a kiss but it’s something. She then smiled, turned and nearly skipped to her front door, disappearing inside.

I don’t understand, what is so wrong with her that would compel her to like me. She deserves so much better. I can’t be an asshole though. I feel like I am in a horror film, but I think I will go on a second date.

You will meet the person of your dreams,
in your dreams, maybe.

The Desolate Heart Story Cover
The Desolate Heart Story Cover

THE DESOLATE HEART

As I sat there, starring effortlessly into the sapphire center of her eyes I came to the realization that though her eyes were directed into mine, they were peering right through me into the meaningless space beyond us. The moments we spent were never about me, and as she blew her smoke into the air leaving a scent I have grown to thirst for, her black matted hair draped itself across her face covering her best feature. A moment meant to be beautiful fell decaying like the ashes off the end of her withering cigarette. I leaned over the table and planted a firm kiss on her dead lips. Though the feeling was good, it was tainted by the meaninglessness of the moment. I sat back and watched her slowly kill herself as she often did, sometimes with cigarettes, and sometimes with cocaine. There was nothing I could do, she is the most independent woman I know and she is drowning herself in it. She is slowing sinking bellow the waves she has erected and she keeps herself too sedated to notice or care. I am just watching this woman as she falls into the grave she has spent her entire life digging, and I can’t bear the thought of trapping myself bellow with her. I find it hard to leave, chasing her as she chases the smoke off the end of her lips. She is my poison, she is my drug, and I must do what she will not, I must save myself from her.

I would have taken her to the edge of the world.
We would have let our legs hang suspended
over the edge, and watched the sun rise.

The Desolate Heart Spoken Word.
In The Morning Story Cover
In The Morning Story Cover

IN THE MORNING

It was a concoction made up of one parts depression and two parts desperation. The plan worked in the traditional sense, but it was not quite what he had wanted. The girl, still asleep next to him began to snore and in a similar fashion he let out a long heavy winded sigh of regret and distaste. He stood up, put his tailored work overcoat over top of his pajamas and stepped out of the apartment. He made his way down the three flights of winding stairs before he came to the realization that he had left the keys on the table. It was 3 am though, who would be around at this hour? He dug his hands into his coat pockets as he pushed through the door outside and gleefully watched his breathe solidify into a sort of steam that wavered in front of his head. He smiled, these cool nights could be quite lovely. The man managed to ignore all of the commotion in the street and went walking towards central park. A few strangers gave him looks befitting their title, but made their way past him along the narrow sidewalks nonetheless. Everyone and everything around him seemed to be moving with a purpose. The garbage trucks desperately trying to keep up with the people and their filth, and the men and the women headed to or from their obligations. Yet in the midst of it all the man found himself in his pajamas, surrounded by the bustle that seemed to keep the city alive. He eventually came to an apartment complex he recognized, and walked over to the fire escape. He jogged to the opposite corner of the alleyway, spun around and ran towards the building. He just managed to jump high enough to grab the base of the fire escape. He then pulled himself up climbed over the guardrail and then sat down, letting his legs dangle over the edge. He pulled out a pack of cigarettes and clumsily let a number of them fall back to the ground. He lifted a chosen one up and lit it against his lips. He could feel the weight and stress of the current moment lift off of his chest, ironically as if he could breathe again. He closed his eyes and pictured her next to him. The way they used to sit there and watch the living streets bellow, wasting time to make up stories for the passers by. He imagined his hand holding hers and her head gently resting against his shoulder with his head atop hers. He smiled one of those smiles that are simultaneously happy, and melancholy. The kind someone would smile and cry to, when regarding a passed loved one. Though he was not one for crying. He opened his eyes and decided to imagine where the woman in his bedroom had come from. What was her story? Where was she from? He imagined her name was Marcie, named for her grandmother. He imagined she was a florist. He imagined that she saw him from across the bar and said to her friends “I want that one.” He opened his eyes to recall that there is no way that had been the case. Slowly the night before returned to him and he scrunched his eyes and dug his fist into his left eye socket thinking this classic gesture might help him forget the truth. He tried desperately to push it from his mind and imagined once again the girl beside him, only this time she wrapped her arms around him. He once again felt the intense pressure of her absence in his weak chest. He tried to suck out the last of the drug between his lips, but it was spent. He bowed his head over as a single droplet began to fill under his left eye. He stabbed it out with his wrist. He is not one to cry. He doesn’t cry. He stood up, once again hurdling the guard rails. He jumped to the ground, just catching himself from toppling over. He stood up strait and walked home. This time he become a part of the current. For better or worse, he was walking with purpose. He made it to his building and up the three flights of stairs, around the corner and through the door of his unlocked apartment. A handwritten note sat eagerly atop the table in the middle of the room. The bed was left vacant but neatly made. The note read “I think we both regret last night. Sorry if I was too forward, or maybe you were, who knows. Anyways you can make me your “World Famous” pancakes some other time -Tracy” At the base of the note next to a crude drawing of anatomically incorrect heart, were strewn a set of numbers by which to contact her. He picked up the note and let it sail into the waste basket near the foot of the bed. He didn’t want to know the truth, he wanted to see her as the florist. He wanted her to be opening her shop the next morning and imagining him bringing her the flowers she pedaled. He imagined her smile, he imagined it wrinkling her nose and smooshing her freckles into one another. He fell into a seated position atop the stagnant bed and again he aggressively stopped water from his eyes with his wrist. He was not one to cry. He didn’t cry. He decided that if he could not have his real life fairy tale, then he would hold on to this fake one. He pulled out another cigarette biting down on it as if it were going somewhere, lay back on the bed and tried to relax. He watched patiently as the sunlight slowly snuck into the room from under the curtains. It was morning.

Somewhere deep down in the empty and forgotten depths of my mind, lays a kiss you left for me.

Heading North Story Cover
Heading North Story Cover

HEADING NORTH

Peering through the frosted window, he could see small lights dancing along the horizon. Sleeping next to him, her head rested peacefully on his left shoulder. In nearly every direction the mountains slipped through his sight as the bullet train sped past them navigating along the narrow tracks heading north. The cabin lights occupying the train had been silent since the evening, though he found himself unable to sleep. There was a restlessness in the pit of his soul that he needed to tend to.

Towards the front of the train car he could hear the two attendants speaking in a native dialect that he did not understand. They seemed to be talking in soft tongues. He imagined that they were in love, holding too little confidence in their hearts to embrace it.

Sell me your insecurities, nothing is cheap in this world and I will pay for them with what is left of my dignity.

Beautiful Flower Story Cover
Beautiful Flower Story Cover

BEAUTIFUL FLOWER

On the edge of the bunk bed she sat, nursing a joint as if she believed I did not see her. She told me once that all she had ever wanted was to be beautiful, and she was. With her legs dangling over the edge, her hair wrapped up in a pony tail and her expression relaxed she was quite stunning. In this moment however, that is all she was, covering her face with makeup with the hope that it might make her insides as beautiful as what my eyes beheld. Once upon a time she was kind, but the tides have changed. My back rubs and little signs of affection were inconsequential. Over time it had become clear to me that I was just a utensil, like the makeup she used me to try and cultivate the image of herself that she wished she was. She used all of this as a mask for the person she wanted to believe herself to be. She hid in her shell of denial behind the persona she chose to believe. At night she would wash the makeup and product from her face, let her hair down, remove her contacts, and put on her glasses. This was the time that I found her most beautiful, no vail, no mask. This was when she would show her true colors, but I was not who she wanted me to be. I would wake up first in the morning, holding her sleeping in my arms, and contemplate leaving. There were good times, but I would never live up to who she wanted me to be, a man as consumed with my image as she was. I was not beautiful, and this would be our downfall. She never loved me, but thats ok. I never loved her either, as once she removed the mask, she was a difficult person to love.

Do you want me to tell you that you are special?
Because you are special, but there is noting
unique about being unique.

Written But Never Sent Story Cover
Written But Never Sent Story Cover

WRITTEN BUT NEVER SENT

I am going to call it, the relationship is dead. It’s about time one of us said it. Neither of us are truly happy, especially not you. I used to hear our song on the radio and get butterflies in my stomach. Now all I can think of is how long we have been driving down this road without waking up next to each other, and feeling anything at all. We are just statues that were sculpted to love each other, we never asked for it, we never wanted it. I made you coffee, it’s resting on the counter. I know you don’t like the way I make it, but that’s ok, you will never have to suffer through a cup again. I really did love you once, and I believe that you loved me too. That is what I want to remember, not burnt coffee and not cold sheets, I hope you will feel the same way. So here’s to warm beds and better coffee.

One last time,
The man who stands at the center of the room.

Give me a reason not to love you, give me an inkling of a thought that leads to a well of doubt.
Because I won’t find it on my own.

The Woods At Night Story Cover
The Woods At Night Story Cover

THE WOODS AT NIGHT

“I never loved her.” The tired young boy said when he finally spoke, though he said this more for his own benefit than mine. He bowed his weary head and exhaled slowly into the frosted, wilderness air. His light green coat was stained dark with dried blood, seeming to betray his position of innocence. My partner eagerly walked over, taking a seat on the third metal folding chair. He handed the child and I cups of lukewarm stained black coffee. I took a sip, no sugar, it was going to be a long night.

“Can you tell us where she is.” My partner probed, hoping to initiate any kind of response from him. The boy simply responded that he could not, and kept his head down. I stood up and walked back to the vehicle. I could hear the kid begin to cry, he did not try to conceal this from us. He wasn’t much older than my nephew, seventeen or eighteen at the most. What hell had he managed to get himself wrapped up in. My partner wanted to ask the boy more questions, but I had a feeling that we were not going to be wildly successful looking for information this way. I pulled out the tattered satellite phone from the back of the Land Rover and proceeded to notify law enforcement that we had, in fact, found the boy. It had been about thirteen long hours since we had managed to track him down. I had wanted a chance to let him help himself out, before we turned him over to the real authorities. Contrary to popular belief I did not subscribe to the thinking that this kid was some kind of criminal mastermind. I would like to prove it, but I would need to catch the break, that I thought finding the boy would provide. So far the only thing that finding him has reveled me, is that he really did love her, and that he had watched her die. One way or another, this ordeal was going to be the death of him, and perhaps myself as well.

Every day as I walk out of the apartment, my dog looks up at me as if I am never coming back. And I swear to God one of these days he is going to be right.

The Florist Story Cover
The Florist Story Cover

THE FLORIST

After her unusually and unnecessarily long day at work, the florist shoved the key to her apartment into her neighbors door handle. She shook it vigorously more out of frustration than anger a total of three times. Then recognizing the sequence of numbers on the plaque that rested on the door, she stopped. The florist then, without hesitation, sidestepped three paces and slipped into the unlit apartment she had been expecting.

She dropped her book-bag to the floor, and shuffled about her apartment, gathering the necessary ingredients for the creation of tacos. Or perhaps burritos. No, no, tacos would taste better, the weather had been a bit nippy but was not cold yet. It was difficult to find everything needed as the cupboard had not been organized in weeks, she was short several spices but such a trivial thing was not going to stop her.

The last month had been tough on the florist. She not only had to learn how to live without him, but also how to pay rent without him, and the florist had resented him for that. She had not realized it yet, but she resented him for all the wrong reasons, he was a kind and gentle man, but he was not always honest, and not always loyal. The florist did not want to think about such occurrences, so instead she focused on trivial things, such as the lack of financial support, or how he used to stock the cupboard before she came home.

As the ground beef began to sizzle she thought of him, well not so much of him, but rather she wondered if he was thinking of her in that moment. Each day it took more of her energy not to call him than it did to wake up, and the florist had never been a morning person. A few nights ago he had sent her a drunk text that consisted of a lengthy apology, and a lewd photo. She promptly deleted it, and cried herself to sleep.

The days seemed to grow longer even though fall had arrived at her doorstep, she did not feel as though she had anything to look forward too. They had planned a trip up north to see the Hiawatha National Forest, and though it had not been discussed post-breakup, it was safe to assume the trip had been canceled. She had contemplated going alone, as she had been looking forward to the escape, but road trips were not the same alone. Driving is a chore if you are by yourself, and a lonely one at that.

She finished cooking the ingredients, consumed two of the three tacos, and turned on the next episode of her latest television sitcom. Putting the kitchen back together was a chore she decided to brush off until the early hours of the morning. The florist often found herself waking up at an ungodly hour and not being able to fall back to sleep. She may as well find some use for this time. Her pillow and blanket lay on the couch as she had additionally been unintentionally spending her nights there. Just before she lay down however, she glanced out the window and upon the dimly lit street where the streetlight seemed to spot a taxi who awaited someone. This reminded her that she needed to water her flowers sitting in the window sill, as they were wilting.

How can you expect me to stay afloat, when the you buoy you have given me is made of fevered dreams.

Seasonal Story Cover
Seasonal Story Cover

SEASONAL

It was more difficult than he thought it should be, trying to revise his lyrics. The teen was racking his brain for some creative and meaningful words to replace his overused seasonal metaphors. There was just something about singing to the seasons that was calming and comfortable. It does not require one to open up their heart or spill their guts on some issue, simply let the descriptive words fall off your tongue. The teen just found it easier to say that it was cold outside, and let that reflect his inner thoughts, than try to mold into audible poetry the way that he was depressed.

He had written the song while showering. The teen always found it easier to be creative in the shower, he would be alone, warm, and unencumbered. For some reason that seemed to move the creative gears in head. Now he was sitting on the concrete floor of his parents unfinished basement, as the likelihood of them venturing down there was minimal. His father had wanted to put in carpet and make it a media room with a big flatscreen TV, but his mother wanted to spend the money on a family vacation to Australia. After all the fighting the teen ended up with a spoiled younger brother instead.

After trying fire and water metaphors as replacements, he aggressively crumpled the paper and threw it into a corner of the room. A small pile was beginning to form and it almost looked like a snow pile, which gave him an idea but drove the teen back to his season metaphors. Eventually he decided that he was just going to stick with it, perhaps name the album something like “The seasons of the heart.” Except not that, it sounded too girly.

The teen did not play an instrument but his best friend did. And his best friend said that he would be willing to write the guitar lines for any songs he liked. The teen was very excited about this proposition but was not sure how is best friend would feel about the seasonal references. His best friend lived in a much wealthier neighborhood and that boys parents had not only put a pool room in the basement, but they had spent the entire summer in Aruba. The problem was they both came from different places, but the teen thought that maybe the season references were one of those things that everyone just kinda gets. Maybe when he expresses how left out he feels from his parents life plans, that his friend would hear the lack of support for his musical career in those same lyrics.

The teen went back to his first draft, and put in his folder of songs, he then slid it under his arm and went upstairs for dinner.

Make a prosthetic sound to entangle me.

One Last Time Story Cover
One Last Time Story Cover

ONE LAST TIME

A purple tea stain on the table marks the last time I was here. He sits across from me in the chair with the duct taped leg, a bottle of Jack Daniels in between us. It feels like the two shot glasses next to the bottle are staring him down, even though one of them has toppled over. He is telling me about how his sister got a black eye, and how he wants to kill the man who did it. When I tried to talk to him about solutions all he would discuss is how much she loved that monster, and how he had broken her arm for it. It didn’t take too long for me to realize that I was not invited for a conversation, but a monologue. He gets mad again and starts to throw a fit, he looks at me waiting for me to get upset as well, but I have nothing to say. He jumps up and down like a child throwing a tantrum. All he wants is to elicit a reaction from me, but he gets none.

The truth is his sister has not been with that man for years, I had to press him before he told me that. He just kept talking about how he wanted to kill the guy, and how he did not care about the consequences. Just a few minutes ago he had been crying on my arm apologizing for all the wrong things. He never apologized for always being intoxicated or for never being there when his friends needed him, no he was sorry that he had not hung out last week and that the record player he lent me was out of batteries. I couldn’t fault him for the things he apologized for and he knew it, but he would not face the thing thats were really collapsing the friendship. He wanted me to be mad, he wanted me to be angry at him for all the wrong reasons. So that he could feel better, but I’m not here for false securities, I’m here because he said he needed me. Despite everything he is my friend, so I set my paperwork down and came, I thought I knew what I was getting into.

He stopped for a moment, and excused himself to the bathroom, leaving the room slowly and haphazardly. I decided to hide his bottle of Jack, I walked over and put it in one of his roommates moving boxes. I didn’t want him to drink anymore, I was tired of this shit. We used to sit on the top of parking lot at night and write music, it would soothe my soul to let out all my frustrations and insecurities in the form of love songs for nobody. Maybe thats why I answered the phone, maybe thats why I came. He had helped me express myself in way I hadn’t been able to before, so maybe I felt like I owe him something.

He walked back in the room and froze behind me. He demanded the location of his Bottle. I told him I had hidden it, that he did not need any more to drink, but he was furious. He got in my face and yelled at me, that is was his fucking bottle and he needed it back. I snapped a little bit, I refused to roll over like that. Mirroring his level of anger and frustration I screamed back into his smelly unkempt face that I would give him his drink back but if he so much as smelled the liquor, that I would leave. So I walked over, retrieved his poison and put it right in front of him on the table.

He poured himself a shot, and I gathered my things. As I stood up to leave he stopped me, he pleated that he simply need to see the drink, to look at it. He began to cry again and said that he needed me, that he really needed me. He talked about how so many of his friends had grown distant, he said that I always answered his calls and he thanked me for that. He said that he couldn’t be alone tonight, not tonight. So I sat down, but I told him that if he drank that shot I would leave. And there is nothing in the world that would keep me there if he drank that shot.

He offered me the second shot glass but I declined, as much as I wanted to relax I was not going to add any more toxicity to this encounter. He asked me what happened, why things were changing. I responded that things always change, for better or for worse things will never stay as they are. He responded that I as too philosophical, so I asked him what he wanted to hear. He once again told me that he wanted me to be mad at him, and I once again responded that I wasn’t, at least not about those things. He began to reminisce about the time we threw a fancy party for our friends, he talked about how we totally pulled it off without a hitch. He asked me if we could do it again sometime. I told him that I had every intention of doing it again sometime. We sat there in silence for a moment, the dimly lit room seemed to finally take a breathe from everything that was happening.

He broke the silence and in a hushed, almost beaten tone he asked if I thought he was a failure. I said that I didn’t. He went on explaining how his family thought he was and how he could live with that, but it would really hurt if his friends thought that about him. I said that I didn’t and I thought we had really done something great with the songs we had written. He asked me if we would ever finish them. I told him I wanted too but only if we did it sober, and he was silent. I don’t know what was on his mind but I was simple trying to think of the last time I saw him sober. It had been a while.
It had been a few hours and he told me he was coming down, he looked into the glass like someone looks longingly at the one that got away, knowing that it would never be how they imagined it could have but still holding that baseless hope in their heart. He took the shot.

I stood up, turned around, and without saying a word I left. I could hear him in the background making excuses for his action and pleating once again for me to stay. I went to my car, turned the keys and drove away.

Sometimes I feel as though I am withering away,
and all I have to do is stand up and stop it.
But it is easier just to lie still,
and watch the world slowly fade into darkness around me. So I can see if the stars really are brighter in the country.

Blue Tang Story Cover
Blue Tang Story Cover

BLUE TANG

Male Blue Tang, average size.

One of those salt water fish that you find out after buying it, that they cannot be bread in captivity and so it was stolen from its home in the ocean. That way you feel guilty once its too late. The young man had bought the fish after his girlfriend left him. She was the kind of independent girlfriend that would make one feel unnecessary. So the logical decision of course was to buy a salt water fish. He liked the idea of something depending on him, he wanted it to matter that he came home at night. He lit up the bottom of the fish tank with old Christmas lights, so at night the whole tank lit up like a nightlight. It was very romantic and perhaps his next girlfriend would appreciate it.

Male Blue Tang, average size. Seeking companion for oversized tank.

The young man was not particularly a fan of online dating, after all that is where he had met his ex-girlfriend. On the first date they found themselves at a small Vietnamese restaurant, he ordered some unique dish he had never heard of, and she got the Kung Pao Chicken. They split the bill but he covered the tip, 30%. It was a mediocre date, but they were both lonely, and spending time together made that fact less painful. They would watch scary movies and she would fall asleep on him, so he would sit still and try his best to enjoy the rest of the cheesy slasher flicks. In moments like those he would feel loved, even if he wasn’t.

Male Blue Tang, average size. Seeking companion for oversized tank. Pet fish only, no ocean fish.

The young man wondered if his Blue Tang was lonely. They say there are plenty of fish in the sea but this fish was is a tank alone. Lots of swimming space but no additional fish to share it with. The young man was probably overthinking the whole thing but he figured it was better to be safe than sorry. The fish seemed to stare back at him, as if he understood something that transcended species, that feeling of trapped loneliness. I mean its a fish, so probably not, the young man was probably just projecting his feelings onto the fish, psycology is funny like that. He decided to do something for his fish just in case however. No reason to be lonely if it can be helped.

Male Blue Tang, average size. Seeking companion for oversized tank. Pet fish only, no ocean fish. Serious responses only, this is not a joke.

He put the ad on craigslist. After sorting through the prank responses and “hook up” bots the young man had two interesting offers. One from a female Powderblue Surgeonfish (a close relative to the Blue Tang) whose tank is currently suffering from a broken air pump, and the second for a small crab. The young man responded to both emails saying that his home would be happy to accommodate the creatures seeking new residence. He relayed this information to his blue tang and decided that he was loosing his mind. The sooner the other aquatic life owners arrived, the better.

OFFER EXPIRED — Male Blue Tang, average size. Seeking companion for oversized tank. Pet fish only, no ocean fish. Serious responses only, this is not a joke.

She had come to drop off a Powderblue Surgeonfish, and stayed to see the tank light up. The young woman was studying to be a marine biologist but no longer had the time to manage a salt water fish tank. The young man had made extra Bun with Pork so he would have leftovers but instead invited her to stay for dinner. He was happy she did. Perhaps online dating wasn’t so bad after all. The Blue Tang seemed very happy as the young man and the young woman watched the fish swim around each other from the table.

I would love to love you.

“Sometimes you need to step outside, get some air,
and remind yourself of who you are and where you want to be.”
- Unknown

Zachary Spears

Written by

Freelance artist and journalist with experience in startups, crowdfunding, filmmaking, design, and community management. More more at zachspears.com.

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