Astronauts 1 – Broke

Smoke clouded the room and settled in a haze over Jay’s drooping head. The light of several dim, flickering bulbs danced in the last inch of the tepid liquid in his glass. “Nobody ever tells you, you know,” he muttered, his voice wet and thick. “Nobody’ll tell you. They’ll shake their heads, turn away, tell you to shut up for your own good. Should have known it was important. You can always find someone to talk about what doesn’t matter. But they wouldn’t. Nobody.” He stared into the glass but didn’t move to drink its contents.

Kade’s voice rang sharply across the room. “Why did you need other people to tell you at all?”

Jay laughed but it turned quickly into labored coughing. “You really think you know everything, don’t you. Just dig around inside yourself enough and you can come up with any answers you need.” His voice fell. “Has it ever occurred to you that you’re really nothing? Nothing but a body and a heart. There aren’t any answers. Don’t lie to yourself.”

‘You’re drunk,” Kade observed flatly. “Ironic that you’d tell me not to lie to myself.”

“Think you know everything. But everybody always knows but you.”

“You’re drunk and an idiot. She was just a girl. Let it go.”

“Nothing left in me to be an idiot. She took the heart, all I got left is the body.” He heaved a ragged sigh. “Can’t have been just a girl. She left and took me too. You know what was in her that she was able to take me apart like that?” He looked up expectantly at Kade, his eyes bleary. “‘Course you don’t. You don’t have any more answers than anybody else ever did.”

His voice softened a little. “Come on, man, I’ll take you home. You’ll sleep it off. I’ll get you a coffee; everything will be okay.”

“You’re not even listening. ‘Sokay, nobody these days can talk or listen. Except her. I thought it was going to be different.” He threw back the last of his whiskey, but his hand slipped and the rim of his glass chipped as it tumbled onto the table. “I broke it,” he murmured to himself. His trembling fingers searched in his pockets and pulled out a cigarette and a lighter. It took several tries for the end to ignite.

“I hear you,” Kade said gently. “I know it hurts, but it’s just going to hurt more the longer you sit here.”

“It’s not the same. You ever been in love, kid?” Jay sucked smoke into his lungs and coughed wetly.

“Sure.” Kade sat down abruptly, ran his hand restlessly through his hair. “There was this girl in the fourth grade. Prettiest girl in the class. I dreamed about her for weeks, then I kissed her, she slapped me, and I never looked at her again.”

Jay laughed. “So you were a coward even then. Why didn’t you try again?”

“It’s not worth it, is it? Here you are, drunk into oblivion over what you think was love. If it was love, why’d she leave?”

They were both silent for a few moments before Jay spoke. “I wasn’t good enough. Not even that. I didn’t constantly try and fail to meet her expectations.” His voice grew softer. “I didn’t try hard enough. She saw me for what I was. I didn’t forget to tell her I loved her, I told her she wasn’t good enough.”

Kade frowned. “But you think you still love her. That was stupid. Why’d you do it?”

Jay looked up at him, his bloodshot eyes piercing. “I thought love was supposed to be honest.”

“If you thought that-”

“I thought love was a lot of things. Maybe I was wrong. I told you, I didn’t just lose her, she managed to take me from myself, too. Maybe I’m sitting here cause I don’t know what love is.”

“Well, I do know what it is. And it’s not worth it. So come on, let’s go. It’s four in the morning, you need some sleep.”

Jay stood up, leaning hard against the table. “Okay, kid, we’ll say that. It’s not worth it. Makes everything feel a lot better, doesn’t it?” His lips pulled into a flat smile, contrasting the tears leaking from his eyes.

Kade stood as well, but he looked uncomfortable. “You wanted an answer. There’s your answer; nobody said they’d give you the one you wanted.”

“Only taking your answer because I don’t need it anymore. I wanted to know what love is, how to keep a girl once you won her, what would happen if it ended. Still don’t know the first two, but I know what happens when it ends. Guess that was most important all along.”

They stepped out together onto the chilly, dark street. “Stop looking like that, kid,” Jay said. “You didn’t want love. So maybe you’re right. Isn’t that good for you?”

Kade drew in a shuddering breath and stopped. Jay paused as well, looking questioningly at him. “I didn’t say I wanted to be right,” he said softly.

They both looked up at the crescent of moon hanging over the buildings’ silhouettes so that they wouldn’t have to look at the tears in each other’s eyes. “Hurts to know you can break something like that all by yourself,” Jay said. “Hurts even worse to know the only way to fix it is to try again.”

A/N: This is the first installment in a series of (likely unrelated) short stories under the general theme of “Astronauts.” Likely none of these stories will have anything to do with space – that name and my loose inspiration for their themes comes from Difference Maker by NEEDTOBREATHE. I know nothing about anything except that I’ve been having severe writer’s block lately, so I’m going to throw any words I can find at paper till I find something with which I’m satisfied.

3 thoughts on “Astronauts 1 – Broke

  1. Oooh! I like this philosophical discussion between the two. The imagery of the heart and body is beyooootiful!!!

    Also, is the next installment’s title going to be “woke”? Bp

    Liked by 1 person

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