He sat in the room as it slowly got too dark to see anything. Everyone would be coming home soon, but soon was not now. He therefore allowed himself the self indulgent luxury of sitting in the dark room surrounded by his thoughts of self-loathing and all the powerful demons that haunted him. He no longer had any hope things would change, that they could get better. This was new. Something within him was changing. He smiled as he realized the pain was starting to leave. It was leaving because he had begun at last to give up. This surprised him a bit because he was not the kind to give up on anything, but this had gone on too long. He would never escape this private Hell he was in. He knew that others would see this as weakness on his part. He knew they would think if he would just stick with it a little longer, if he would just try harder, he could get past this. A sneer formed on his lip as he whispered, "They have no idea." He began to feel he was losing his humanity and becoming one of the demons that haunted him.
At that point he heard the sound of a car coming up in the driveway. He got up and went to the door of his room and turned the light on. Then he walked out and down the hallway to the bathroom. He began to undress and take a shower. He wanted to wash all the visible signs of pain off him so he could make himself presentable for everyone tonight. He did this not to hide his real life from them so much as to spare them and him from the needless pain of seeing something wrong, but not having sufficient desire to truly help. It was far better to just let them pretend everything was fine. By the time he had dressed and freshened up, he was once again the picture of calmness and peace that he knew they expected. He walked out of the bathroom and down the hallway into the family room to greet the rest of the family.
She could tell something was wrong. He was very good at putting on a front, flawless in fact, but his eyes gave him away. They were dark. The light had gone out of them. He smiled, carried on a nice conversation, but the eyes and what lay behind them seemed empty. She wanted to help him, but how, and was it too late?
Later in the evening, she walked into his room determined to confront him. He was sitting at his desk studying. He looked up and smiled as she entered, and turned away from his books, for all appearances clearly pleased to see her. He was so convincing a part of her actually doubted what she now felt was the truth. Her lip began to tremble. She bit it softly and said a small prayer asking for strength.
He knew instantly when she walked in that she at last suspected something and had come to confront him. His immediate thought was not one of relief of at long last having this conversation, or even of fear at what might be disclosed. No, it was, "Where were you ten years ago?" Now of course, it was too late. She would find out nothing because he would tell her nothing. There was no evidence, no trace of anything that she could bring up. He just wanted to make this as painless for her as he could. He cared for her. She deserved far better.
In the end what happened surprised even her. She knew when he turned to greet her as she walked into his room that he would deny anything she might say. Besides, what evidence did she have? He would not admit to anything unless she had proof, and there was none. So instead she walked over and sat on his bed and pulled his chair over to her and then reached out and grabbed his hands. It was an act that made them both smile.
"Honey," she started, "I just want you to know that I love you very much. I have been so busy lately that I think I have been neglecting my family, and especially you." She was looking directly into his eyes for any trace of emotion, any sign that she was reaching that wonderful boy she knew was inside somewhere, lost and afraid. There was none; she continued nonetheless. "Now, this may be nothing more than a mother's intuition and you don't have to say anything if you don't want to, but I think there is something going on in your life that is more than you can handle. I have no evidence this is the case. You are and always have been the perfect son. I have always been so very proud of you and all your accomplishments. I want you to know, though, that I can help you get through whatever this might be. There is nothing you could tell me that would my make me love you any less. Everybody has problems, and everybody is ashamed of things they have done. Sometimes, though, the only way they can deal with them is to share the burden. It isn't a sign of weakness to ask for help, it's the way things are supposed to be." She talked a bit more reminding him of some of the happy memories they had shared together in the past and ended with, "I love you, please let me help."
He listened to her, wanting nothing more than to push her away and tell her to leave. Her touch was the worst, that and her looking directly into his eyes. It took every bit of self control to sit there relaxed and let a slightly amused yet serious look play across his face. Halfway through he even began stroking her hand. Telling her anything never crossed his mind. He loved her too much to do that to her. If she knew the truth, if she knew what he had become, she would hate and detest him as much as he did himself. He didn't think about any of that, though. He focused all his attention on her and how much he loved her. He did this because he wanted her to see the loving son she deserved and not the horrid monster he had become. He knew he had to say something and that wasn't a problem. He had long ago thought all the details of this confrontation through. "Mom," he started, "I love you too. I am very stressed with my job and school and if it's spilling over on to you, well, I'm sorry." He continued for a bit telling her enough of the details of his day so she would understand the truth of what he was saying. Everything he told her was true, he just didn't tell her everything.
This was maddening for her. She felt more than ever that something was going on but she couldn't reach him. Walls were up between them. His defenses were too good. She wanted to yell at him and shake him and make him tell her. If she thought it would help she would have done it, too, but she knew it wouldn't. What could he have done that was that bad, what could he have done that could cause this kind of shame and make him want to cover up this much?
The last thing she did before she left his room almost broke him. If she had looked a little closer into his eyes before leaving, things might have gone differently. She made him stand up and she hugged him. She hugged him and whispered in his ear, "I love you Pooh Bars." That was her pet name for him when he was a little boy, and when he heard her say it, Pooh Bars began to cry.
He cried. When she had left his room and walked down the hall, he fell on his bed and buried his face in his pillow and cried and cried. He cried for what he had become. He cried for the wonderful little boy inside him that was slowly being devoured by this monster. He cried over his inability to deal with this whole thing. He had come to realize how amazingly frighteningly powerful it was. He cried because he was afraid. He knew he would just never be able to tell anyone any of this. They would have to confront him and squeeze it out of him and force him to tell them everything. Did she love her little Pooh Bars enough to do that? He hoped so. He whispered, "Please come back."
She went to her room tears in her eyes. He was so lost and she didn't know how to reach him, what to do to get through to him. The whole exchange in there was cold. He looked and felt so empty on the inside. She shook her head alternating between feelings of anger and despair. Anger that something could do this to her son and despair over her inability to reach him. She got up, determined to go back into his room and stay until this came out in the open. Half way to the door she faltered, not sure it wouldn't just be another cold empty conversation that would push him even further away from her.
He knew she wouldn't though. It wasn't that she didn't care either, just not enough, and she didn't understand. At this point he was completely open and vulnerable. Were she to come in now would he be able to talk to her about this? He shook his head, "No," he whispered to himself and, "Besides, she isn't going to come." At this point two thoughts came to his mind at the same time. The first was of taking his life and putting an end to this pain. The second was, "This is undiscovered country." He had never had that kind of a thought before and the novelty of it was intellectually stimulating. Was this the answer? Did it make sense to continue to struggle when he had lost hope? What about his family he left behind, what would it do to them? His mind flooded with questions and he turned them all over considering them. He couldn't come up with any compelling reason not to go through with the thought and make plans to take his own life, except for one thing. He didn't know what it was either, he just knew he couldn't do it, not yet anyways, and so he cried for the pain he must continue to endure. "Please come back," he whispered.
She stood outside his door feeling that she should go back in and yet faltering. Caught in a moment of indecision, she was working up her courage for what would surely be a very painful encounter for both of them. She was whispering her last quiet prayer when pandemonium broke loose in the family room. She groaned within, waiting several long seconds for the altercation to settle itself on its own. It didn't, it was getting worse, and there it was. Her name was being called. She bit her lip looking at her son's door and whispered, "I'll be back Pooh Bars, please wait for me."
The moment was beginning to pass as he realized, again, that she wouldn't come. No one was there for him. He was all alone. The cold calculating shell of darkness was descending over him again. He dried his eyes, and undressed to the sounds of his younger siblings fighting in the family room. He never heard the footsteps outside his door going down the hallway, and it probably wouldn't have mattered anyways.
When she got back some ten minutes later and saw the light out in his room she shook her head. Too late. She felt that the moment, whatever it had been, had passed and she would have to wait.
He woke the next morning with memories of the day before and everything that had happened flooding his mind. He lay in bed in the pre-dawn shadows staring out at the tree just outside his window watching it slowly take shape. His mind was empty with a complete lack of thought worthy of a Zen master, only this wasn't any meditative state, practiced or natural. This was the void. That's what he called it at any rate. It settled around him like a warm black blanket, smothering out any light, any happiness, any hope that things could ever be any different, any better. It was always this way on the day after. He always ended up in the void. He knew there was a pattern at play here. He recognized it and even so was powerless to change it. God knows he had tried everything he could think of, and nothing had worked. None of that mattered in the void though. Here he was nothing. Here, he no longer cared. He had no happiness, no sadness, no regret. He didn't really have any personality in the void. It was as close to a state of non-existence as you could get, or so he thought.
Gradually light began to come to the world and he knew he must face the day ahead in some fashion. Lying here in bed all day would accomplish nothing. It would only draw attention to himself in ways that were not good. He reached over and turned off his alarm seconds before it was about to go off and disturb others, and rose out of bed. He showered and got dressed and went to the kitchen to get a drink before he left for work. This was all happening on autopilot, there was nothing going on behind his eyes. He was still and would spend much of the day in the void. It didn't really matter though, nothing mattered.
In this state, he could dispassionately contemplate taking his life. He had considered where he would do it, somewhere where the mess wouldn't cause his family any problems, and how he would do it, something efficient that would guarantee success. No note would be left because what would he say? To tell anyone else the truth would be to cause unnecessary suffering on their part. No, the idea here was to simply disappear, quit existing, make the world a happier place with the loss of his presence, end his hellish existence. But this was not going to happen and he didn't quite know why. Something, for now at least, prevented him from following through. From the void he saw all this and didn't care.
He was just leaving the kitchen when he happened to see a note on the fridge. It was the family place for leaving notes as you could never depend on meeting them face to face on a daily basis. It was an envelope with his name on it in her hand. He took it and read it dispassionately. The first trace of emotion crossed his face but quickly disappeared. It was a sneer. The way she trivialized his life offended him. "Honey I know you're under a lot of pressure and I want to take you out tonight, my treat, let's have some fun, just you and me." She had no fucking clue. Like going out was going to somehow make things better. Like she had ever offered more than the same casual glance in his direction with a, "How was your day, oh good, glad to hear it." She didn't care. No one did.
He had all the data points he needed on that. No one cared enough to descend into the void with him and help him leave. No one even made the effort, actions were the only thing that mattered here and no one was moving. He had tried once. He had reached out and asked for help as best he could. It was a terrifying experience for him to expose himself that completely, and what had happened? Nothing. She had listened and offered some consoling words and had never brought the topic up again. Neither would he. They would go out tonight, she would ask if everything was ok, he would tell her it was and that he was just under a lot of stress. She might even probe a bit, but in the end she would stop. She would stop because she didn't care enough. She might even feel he was hiding something more, something darker, but she would shrink away knowing she didn't have the strength or the desire to get involved. More likely though it would just be a, "Fun," evening out and she would say nothing. Did such people even exist, that would care enough to help him? He doubted it. He felt so alone.
The anger and feelings of loneliness slid easily through him as he returned to the void again, realizing it was a moot point. Whatever happened this evening wouldn't make any difference one way or the other. He took the note with him dropping it in the trash outside, pushing it down so there was no chance she might see it when she left the house.
Surrounded By Demons
He looked out the window at the dull gray afternoon sky, not sure if he could go through with it. Her note this morning suggested they go out tonight and that she wanted to talk. He had just gotten off the phone with her and confirmed a time and place where they would meet as they were both busy all day. It would be a dinner at a place they both liked. The booths there offered enough privacy that they would be able to talk. He had said all the right words and confirmed the meeting but he had absolutely no desire to go. Once again, this time over lunch, he had done that thing that slowly was destroying him even as it continued to give him some ever diminishing bit of pleasure.
He hated what he had become. How could he tell her any of this? How could he say the words? How could he tell her of all of the darkness inside, and of the demons that surrounded him? How could he tell her just what this thing was that he couldn't stop himself from doing without her laughing at him, trivializing the thing that had come to destroy his life? He couldn't imagine she could possibly understand him.
This was why he wasn't sure he could go through with it. He pondered canceling. Could he arrange to, "have to work late, very sorry, let's do this next week, yes I was looking forward to it too." Or, could he fabricate a plausible story that might explain what she thought she was observing, and just what might that be, he pondered. He was lost in thought, calculating the data points she could have possibly accumulated and the meaning she had derived from them. Even if he were generous in assuming what she may have read into what she had seen, the most she would be able to assume was that he was, "depressed." Perhaps he could help her reach that conclusion and spare himself a greater pain. The compassion she expressed would be heartfelt and that would be nice. It wouldn't force her to recoil in horror against the actual truth. Her world would remain intact.
He shrugged his shoulders, and turned back to the computer screen at his desk. He would get a nice meal out of it if he went, but that really didn't do much to excite him either. He wasn't quite sure what he would tell her. He wasn't afraid anymore. Fear implied hope that things would turn out better, or a reluctance to experience pain of some sort. He had finally gotten past both of those.