“Do you believe in ghost?” I ask the pest exterminator.
“Ghost?”, he replies back with bewilderment.
“Yeah, I just mean I feel like…”, I pause with slight apprehension and embarrassment.
“It just seems like the same mouse committing suicide every night”, I chuckle with a bit of reluctance.
“Uhm, If ghosts existed I doubt they would be in mouse form”, he tells me with a light-hearted smile.
As he continues setting new traps in my house, I turn down to look at the poor creature that lays clenched between the jaws of this ghastly trap. It’s blood splattered on the floor; creating the ambiance of a Agatha Christie crime scene.
“I’m sorry, but do you have any traps that aren’t meant to hurt the poor little guys?”, I ask with sincerity.
“Hmm, so you’re one of them huh?”, the man grunts with clear annoyance.
“I just mean, I don’t like seeing any creature hurt; not to mention it looks like the same mouse everyday”.
“Listen.”, my eyes begin to roll as I feel a lecture incoming.
“Capturing these dirty little bastards and releasing them into the wild just opens the door for them to come back, to stop them you have to kill them; stop the spread. Besides, to you seeing this dead ‘RAT’ might be horrific, but to me it’s beautiful; the embodiment of success when it comes to man versus nature.”, he tells me; though I do pick up a tone of racism in his discernment.
“Well, thanks, maybe I will try a different pest control company”, I banter back with dominance.
“Sure, whatever, have fun with your infestation”, the clearly angered man says as he packs up his stuff to leave.
As he is walking out he looks over at my painting hanging over the fireplace.
“Bye.”, I tell him with clear indication that I wanted him to leave. He smirks with disdain and walks out leaving my door wide open. As I go to close my door I look over at my painting, I pause with trepidation and my eyes remain glued to my art as I fall into a trance of remembering how I created such a divine piece.
One of the traps goes off claiming another victim, the sound snapping me out of my nostalgic daydream. As I close my door I realize that it’s no longer daylight outside; how long was I standing here I thought to myself. A sense of worry inundates my thoughts as I lock my door. Feeling a little nauseated to my stomach; understanding that I lost several hours, I try to brush it to the back of my mind. I then cautiously approach the new trap I just heard go off, I gaze down to notice there was no mouse that laid dead; rather an empty trap, I sigh with relief and feel thankful that the little guy got away. I go around my house picking up every single trap the dreadful man put in, I’ve should known better the first time he came out to install them. After finishing I decide that the grumble reverberating in my stomach could be the response to hunger and food hopefully will ease my stomach pains; so I decide to prepare dinner. The dilemma of having an infestation in my house is pushed to the back of my thoughts as I just pretend they don’t exist. I cook my dinner — which consist of me pushing several buttons on my microwave, I then head over to my couch to eat. I hesitate when I pick up the remote to my TV, I don’t feel like numbing my thoughts tonight; rather I would like to be cognitive of my own existence. As I enjoy my meal I hear the sounds of little claws scurry around my living room, once disgusted by the sound I now find solace in the idea at least I am not alone; I giggle. Finishing dinner I decide to poor myself a glass of wine, as I delightfully take small sips I glance up once again to my painting; I then look down at a letter I received in the mail just a few days ago. Actually it was less of a letter and more of an invitation, it was from David. I reach over to pick up the envelope as it sits perfectly adjacent on my coffee table; I look up at the painting again, you see; it was because of David I was able to create this beautiful vision that sits perched above my fireplace. I pull out the invitation, It was like any other invite one could receive in the mail; cold and disconnected, but underneath the mundane typed words written in pen were the words “Call me”, along with his phone number. I can’t comprehend the doubt I feel from calling him, I mean after all we were friends in fact best friends, but now it has been eight years since we have last spoken.
We met freshman year in college, well actually more like the end of freshman year. Our encounter was not one made of the movies; it was a meeting that should have never happened. Something well known about me is I am a bit confident; which is the best word I can think when describing myself. My pride was always held high in my heart so going into college I had plan; I had goals and I knew I did not want anything to get in the way of that. So arriving on campus freshman year I enacted that plan which was quite simple, a regiment of obsessive studying and socializing; I understood the foundation to success is networking and I did just that befriending as many people as possible; well social people, some might call them the party crowd but I knew those people will be the leaders of tomorrow. I have to admit even though I was driven with the revelation of success, college life was fun and the first several months past by like a blur, everything was unfolding the way it was suppose to as if the stars were aligning and I was set on path by some higher power. Then one day as I was headed into the cultural arts building; I got my first glimpse of who David was, it was his art plastered all over the entry way in chalk; a mirage, a beautiful mirage with an ambrosia of stunning colors. It depicted a gruesome scene; people walking in a single file line towards some monstrous looking machine that was horrifically dismembering the people with a caption written in red paint “It’s a trap”, interesting I thought, though looking at the janitors expression who was washing away the mirage he didn’t share the same feelings I did.
As the months passed more and more of Davids art would randomly appear before me; almost as if I was manifesting it, or perhaps I was his intended audience, each depicting some kind of warning to some impeding doom; I found it to be a bit pretentious but then again I was never good at the arts. Then one day I finally got a peek of the man behind the curtain; he wasn’t what I expected, it happened while I was hanging out with friends between classes; they pointed him out to me.
“That’s him”, several of my friends whispered.
I turned my head to get a glimpse of the genius who could turn boring colors into an exquisite reality. He was short and pencil thin, he had shaggy unkempt hair and a bit of a scruffy beard; he looked awkward and clearly was the type that wanted to be left alone; I was confounded.
“You guys sure that’s him”, I asked my friends.
“Definitely!”, I heard one of them exclaim; as I kept my eyes on the artist.
Something about seeing David made me reflect on my childhood, each morning my parents would drink their coffee while enjoying the silence that laid still between them; each one reading their own newspaper. As a kid I just wanted to be older, I didn’t relish childish things. So every morning I would ask my mother if I could have a cup coffee, it’s darkness colliding with the cream would always leave me with awe, it looked delicious and each morning my mothers answer would be the same “no, not until you’re older”, I just wanted to be older I needed to taste that divine beverage. Then one day my mother said yes, I was left with elation knowing I was now old enough, I was mature. My mother grabbed an additional mug from the top cupboard, she placed it right in front of me and started to pour. As I saw the dark stream of coffee fill my cup I was filled with wonderment, a moment that I waited for so long had finally arrived. “It’s hot so drink it slow”, my mother told me as I gleefully picked up the mug, I brought it closer to my lips and I closed my eyes, I envisioned a future of me drinking coffee outside some bistro as people would walk by and wave. Then I sipped, the bitterness engulfing my taste buds, I was completely left with befuddlement. I grimaced and my mother quietly laughed underneath her breath and asked me how did I like it. I lied and told her it was good and forced myself to drink the entire cup in front of them, it left me with great disappointment and stomach pains; I had wanted to taste coffee so bad for years and now finally doing so I realized how distasteful it was; at the time. That’s a bit how I felt about David, for months I felt as if his art was pursuing me, leading me; it trying to reveal a message of sorts to me, so of course I built the idea of such a person in my head. Now seeing him I felt a bit like Dorothy meeting the great Oz, I turned back to my friends and continued our conversation. From there on I would pass David’s art but it wouldn’t leave the same impression on me as it once did.
As my freshman year drew closer to the end I felt empowered knowing that I did well in my classes, the plan was being executed flawlessly and I had plenty of friends, I created memories. On the final week of the semester my friends told me of a party that we had to go to, they were excited so I pretended to be excited as well. The night came and I made sure to look my best, meeting up with my friends they were filled with cheerfulness at my sight; complimenting me of how pretty I looked.
“Emma you look great, but maybe tonight you can smile for once”, one of my friends told me.
For some reason that statement made me feel uneasy, I smile I thought, or did I? While I was lost in my own head reflecting on what she told me my friends snapped me back to reality as they positioned me for a photo. The party was fun, it sort of just turned into a collage of different images, I was dancing and drinking, screaming at the top of my lungs with excitement, this definitely was going to be a night to remember; I remember thinking. Then I was introduced to John, he was attractive and I felt a slight connection forming between us, we went some where quiet to talk. As we kept drinking I started to feel a bit weak, I told him that I wanted to leave because I didn’t feel well, he subtly told me to relax; that he was there to look after me, then there was nothing; darkness engulfed me, I had passed out. In the adventures of my slumber I found myself lost in one of David’s mirages, it was one giant maze and as I searched for way out I kept hearing a voice whisper to me “It’s a trap”, then a sudden bang awoke me for a few seconds. I was still not coherent I just remember seeing two silhouettes in a dark room fighting, screaming at each other and that’s when sleep took over once again shutting my eyes. The next memory I have is waking up in a strange room in bed. I was frightened and I could feel knots forming in my stomach, I couldn’t remember how I have gotten here; I couldn’t remember anything other than that vivid dream. A feeling of relief washed over me when I realized I was alone in the room, so I forced my lethargic body to get up; I knew I needed to escape. Though before leaving my curiosity got the better of me; I started glancing around the room looking through drawers and the closet; I wanted to know the person that brought me here. Whoever did was a dull person, the room lacked any real character and everything was neatly organized as if I were a guest in some hotel. The only thing that stood out to me was a brown box that laid on the bedside table; it was beautifully crafted out of mahogany; polished to perfection with a key lock keeping its secret of what it held inside firmly closed. I walked towards it, I wasn’t sure what I would find inside but I wanted to know. I reached over to open it...
“I wouldn’t open that if I was you,” …
I turned to see who my captor was and to my surprise it was David, this was the great artist’s room I thought. I was taken aback, I figured someone with such talent would have more expression in their own dwelling.
“How did I get here?” I asked, then I noticed his face, it was bruised as if he had been in a fight but more prevalent I saw the bandage that wrapped around his bloody hand.
“I didn’t know where you lived so I brought you here, don’t worry you’re safe”, he told me with no real emotion or facial expression.
“What’s in the box?” my attentions still on the mystery.
He remained quiet and stood there staring at me with impenetrable eyes, but for some reason I didn’t feel disturbed, instead I felt at ease and safe. I sat back down on the bed to show him that I didn’t feel any threat and that’s when he told me what had happened last night. He saw me being carried away by John and followed us. John took me to his room which was above the party at the frat house and there is where he placed me on the bed ready to claim another victim; I assumed, that was when David intervened and saved me. From that day on me and David became the best of friends, he was my rock. Though our personalities where different, usually our conversations would consist of me talking non stop while he would just listen while smoking a cigarette. Every once awhile he would open his mouth to share his thoughts on today’s society, how we all were being indoctrinated into a system of financial oppression, that everything was by design; I would quickly challenge him. I firmly believe that life is what you made of it, that if you put in effort then the rewards you would reap were limitless. I can honestly say I felt as if David was the other half of me, he was like family.
As the next few years came and went I continued executing my plan, grades were good, my social life was thriving and then I landed a great over the summer internship at a marketing firm; it wasn’t nothing major but it was perfect for me to meet more people, after all that was the plan. Only one thing felt as if it was missing, something for me to reach the next level of being noticed, you see I was thriving in my world but I wanted more. I needed something to make me seen, as I brainstormed for months of how to do that; the idea came to me one afternoon as I sat quietly on David’s couch watching him sketch away; lost in between the pages of his sketch book. I wanted to create a unique painting; something so beautiful people would be enamored with it, it would lead me to being noticed and there was only one person I knew that could help me. At first David scoffed at the idea of me creating art, knowing I was helpless in the creativity department; I begged and pleaded with him for weeks wanting him to help me and after plenty of grovelling he finally said yes; I was ecstatic and we got to work as soon as possible.
The next few weeks was not what I expected, I thought David would be teaching me about shadows or color schemes, instead he would ask me questions; personal questions. Ask about my parents, about my childhood, about any pets I had growing up. He told me this was the only way, that art demanded something personal; as if we have to share a piece of our soul with the world. So reluctantly I told him about Gilbert, a bunny I befriended when I was young. Gilbert was your classic rabbit, dark brown with long floppy ears and a cotton tail, when I first saw him I was about five years old. He had wondered into our backyard by chance, I was amazed at the creature, it was the first time I saw animal that was not a cat or a dog up close. I chased him around the yard with a huge smile on my face, him hopping away and me skipping after him. Everyday he would stop by as if to say “hello”, he felt like a friend. I asked my mother if we could keep him inside, if he could live with us, she told me that I was too young that having a pet was a big responsibility, that I would understand when I was older.
“Why?”, I remember asking her.
“Because, a pet demands a lot of attention otherwise it could end up dead”.
“What’s dead?”, I asked with curiosity.
My mother paused with reluctance, not knowing how to respond. I saw the anguish in her eyes and her expression morphed into a stern frown. Her not ready to unleash the cruel truth of the world on to me.
“Well dead, is a sleep we never wake up from, no matter how much we try to awake them; they just stay asleep”, she told me.
I didn’t understand, we always wake up, it seemed impossible to me and I was distraught knowing that Gilbert could not live with us. So as more and more days passed I continued chasing Gilbert around the yard and he continued hopping away from me; in this eternal game of ‘tag’. Then one day I saw Gilbert resting not hopping as he usually did, this is when I wanted to know what my mother meant by “sleeping”. So I crept closer not wanting Gilbert to flee, I saw his ears twitch picking up the sound of me sneaking up on him but he didn’t move, I suppose he felt comfortable with me, after all we were friends. I saw a rock laying on the ground, a big rock and my little arms did it’s best to pick it up, I struggled but eventually I got it over my head, my arms shaking, I carefully aimed and with the force a five year old could create I throw it towards Gilbert. ‘Smash’, I stood there petrified staring at Gilbert sleeping; blood splattered across the grass. I started yelling trying to wake up Gilbert but he didn’t move instead he laid dormant, my mother was right I thought; but I didn’t give up, I continued yelling as loud as I could to awake him, that’s when I noticed someone else was screaming, it was my mother. She came running towards me asking what I had done, her picking me up into her arms angered but scared of my actions.
“You were right, Gilbert doesn’t want to wake up,” I told her.
David’s gaze tore into me, he seemed to be in disbelief, but then his eyes widened with intention. Tears were cascading down my face, I wanted to forget that memory but that’s when David pushed me to start painting, to remember Gilbert’s face as he laid sleeping and for me to use that as my inspiration; so I did. Picking up the paint brush my arms started moving around the canvas without any real sense of direction.
‘left, right, left, right’
It almost felt like I was stammering around in the dark using my arms as antennas; searching for the nearest light switch. Applying layer after layer onto my painting, time seized to exist and the laws of nature evaporated into the void of nihility as I chiseled away. I just remember while painting my tears kept streaming, falling unto the paint I was using, a mixing of my soul with art. Eventually my arms grew weary but I no longer was in control, they pressed on as if possessed by some other entity.
“It’s empty,” David said bringing me back to reality.
“What?”, I responded back with a complex-ed expression.
“The palette, you’re out of paint”,
Looking down I saw that he was right, I had run out of paint; I didn’t know what to do; I was lost.
“Am I done?”, I asked with curiosity.
“We’re never done”, he remarked as he turned back to survey my creation.
“I can’t believe I did this, its pretty”, I told myself.
“Emma, this is you”, David told me while leering at the painting; though I really didn’t understand what he meant by that.
I was exhausted, I had been painting for hours and honestly the whole experience left me feeling empty; a blank slate. I just remember leaving David’s apartment and not bothering to say ‘goodbye’, instead I just wanted to leave; I just wanted to forget the whole night. Days went by and I isolated myself from the rest of the world, the semester was ending and soon summer would be upon me, with that I could stay extra focused on my internship. David trying calling me, kept texting if I was okay, I didn’t bother responding; I just wanted to be left alone. I knew David was going back home for summer break I just needed to avoid him a few more days, but of course the universe always has a different plan. Coming back from the store David was waiting outside of my apartment, he had my painting with him; I couldn’t even look at it, instead I looked up at him; as usual his face was stoic and countenance.
“Look, I just need some space, I…”
“I just wanted to bring you your painting, I’m leaving”, he told me.
As David started to walk away something overcame me, a feeling like I was suppose to say something to him. When I was a teenager I would watch movies like any other normal person would but for me old time classics were my favorite, something about the black and white made the entire film seem more real along with the over dramatized dialogue. My favorite was ‘Casablanca’, a story of a man overcoming his own weakness for the greater good but more importantly for love. Seeing Rick tell Ilsa to board the plane even though he desperately wanted her to stay always made my heart sink, and I saw David walking away and deep down I wanted him to stay; I missed talking to him.
“David!”, I yelled out.
He turned to me and I ran towards him and like some cheesy teenage romance novel I embraced him and surprised him with a soft kiss. Then something unexpected happened, looking at David a smile cautiously formed on his once stoic face; I never saw him smile before; it was different, it was warm opposed to his usual cold demeanor. We didn’t say anything to each other not word was spoken just silence grew between us as we kept our eyes on each other. Eventually car horns blasting in the background broke our moment and with that David left.
That was eight years ago and even though I had one more semester to go David just sort of disappeared, faded away into the obscurity of my life and now he had resurfaced. I couldn’t remember what had happened between us, why did we stop talking? I was ready to find out, I was ready to fly out to see him, so much was left unsaid and it was time. I carefully insert the letter back into the envelope and with that I get up from my couch with the promise to start packing, then suddenly I hear a ‘snap’! I walk over to the sound and realize I must of missed one trap when I was picking up the devices earlier. I bend over to get a closer look at the rat, it’s twitching and squirming; it not ready to die. I stand up and STEP on it, hearing the crackle of it’s bones being crunched underneath the pressure of my foot as it screeches, I whisper to it as I shrug my shoulders “it’s a trap”.
Thanks for reading.
(copyright Adan Mendez, all rights reserved)