Round Here

by Evelyn Floyd

The moon was new, and even though it was a dark grey disk against the blackness of the night sky, I saw it clearly. It made sense to me to be sitting up there in the middle of the night, alone with the moon. I looked down at the ground far below and I smiled.

"I'm coming down to meet you soon." I said to no one in particular. I would have laughed if I could, and the grass looked up at me, and it waved in the gentle breeze. I didn't wave back.

There was a song running through my mind. I heard snatches of lyrics, and I felt a tear roll down my cheek. The song played in my brain and I heard the part of the lyrics that spoke of being near a building, and of jumping. It was as if the singer was tired of life, or something.

Round Here. That's the song. Round Here. I couldn't remember the name of the band, not at that moment, but the song; the song made so much sense. Those lyrics were my life. I'd always liked that song.

I got to my feet and walked along the top of the brick retaining wall that bordered the entire roof, walking along like the song said, at an edge where the land and the ocean meet.

Round Here, that's the song, and that was my destination. I looked down over the edge, past my bare feet, down at the grass that was still waving at me. Was it asking me to come down? I suppose I could have gone down there, it wouldn't be so hard. I felt the tear slide off my cheek, gravity sending it down to touch the grass, so the grass would know I'd be coming soon. The grass would catch me, and caress me, and it would be my friend, wouldn't it?

I stopped and looked up at the dark face of the moon, and in doing so, I lost my balance a little bit. My heart leapt into my throat for a moment, and then it settled down again. "Hello moon." I said, sending a greeting to his cold face, and of course he said nothing in return. It would've been silly for the moon to acknowledge me. The moon was for lovers, and I was not one of those. Nobody loved me, not like that. I had never known anyone in that way.

I turned around, my bare feet pressed against the rough concrete of the horizontal wall coping surface, and I held my arms out to maintain my balance, like an entertainer in a circus. Like a performer up on a high wire. It made me wonder why. Why should I care if I fall; isn't that why I came up here in the first place? I looked down to see the grass was waving again.

The wind and the grass were lovers, he made her whisper sweet nothings as he caressed her blades with every gentle push of himself against her. Perhaps she only mocked me with her waving. Perhaps she wasn't my friend after all.

Maybe the wind would love me, I thought. I could feel the tug of his hands on my skin, rippling against my clothes, touching my hair. But I knew that the wind only loved the grass; so his touch against me wasn't affectionate, it was more than that. It was vindictive. The wind was pushing against me, trying to make me fall, so that the grass could catch me as the fall to the ground killed me. The ground wanted me, too, but not in a loving way. It wanted me on it and then under it, on it to die and then under it for all eternity. Everyone ended up under the dirt, sooner or later. I had come here to pick the former choice.

Round Here. More lyrics coursed through my brain. There was a line about it only being imaginary, a thing inside one's head. That line seemed to keep coming back, like a taunting insult, like the terrible things the bullies said to me at school. Even the other things they said that were hurtful, even though they sounded like honest questions. Questions of curiosity, but not really, they were in reality thinly veiled attacks couched in pretend wonderment.

"Why don't you like girls?" It was a question they asked. They asked me that one a lot. I liked girls, it's just that I didn't like girls in the same way that they liked girls. That's the part they couldn't understand, or didn't want to understand. Those questions made me nervous, and I always had trouble acting normal when I was nervous. I often wondered, what is normal? I had come to the decision that whatever normal is, I could never be that. Would a normal person be up here, at night, balancing on a narrow wall high above the ground?

The wind pushed at my back again, harder now, and down below, the ground called out to me while the grass waved with barely concealed contempt. Counting Crows, I remembered, that's the band that performed the song my brain kept singing. I smiled briefly, proud to have recalled it. I looked down, and my left foot started to slip from the roughly squared edge. I caught myself, regaining my balance, and regretted that I missed my chance. I could've went, all I had to do was just let gravity have its' way with me and I wondered why I saved myself.

I turned towards the trees out beyond the front of the building, facing them and they looked back at me but they didn't need me. Only the ground needed me, but the way it needed me was not in a good way. I put my arms out horizontal, at shoulder height, like a child pretending to be an airplane, or someone who thinks they can fly. I wondered if I could fly, and then I smiled. My flight would be short, and the sudden stop might, just might, be painless. There was only one way to be sure. Pain I knew; I could have done with a lot less pain in my life, if at all possible.

Who would come to my funeral? I asked myself. Who would cry over my cold broken body lying in that fancy and ornate metal box, to mourn me, to ask, "Oh, he was so young, it's such a shame he had to die out there all alone in the dark." But I was not alone, I had the grass and the wind and the trees. I had the wall, the moon and the night sky. And when they shoveled the dirt on my box, the ground would have me at last, too. I wouldn't be afraid anymore, and I wouldn't be there for the bullies to tease at school. And even though I'd be dead and gone, I'd still be round here.

I looked down at the dark ground, where the grass and the wind played with each other like lovers, and I saw a movement. Shit, there was someone down there. I didn't want anyone to see me, not like that. I didn't care what they saw after I took that final big step, because by then it wouldn't matter anymore. Let them gasp and cringe in disgust at my dead, broken body, but I didn't want them to see me vulnerable like I was up on that wall. Somehow, it was worse than being naked.

I watched the person moving down there, walking across the grass and I silently wished them away. "Go away, leave me alone, I don't want you here."

Suddenly I heard a voice. Shit, the figure had seen me. I saw the person running across the ground, heading towards me, a dark figure on the grass.

There was a boy down there. He looked to be about my age, but it was dark, so I could not be sure. He called up to me, asking me what I was doing. I ignored him, hoping he would go away. He repeated his question, and then he asked, "Are you going to jump? Why would you do that?"

I did not answer. I had no desire to speak to this stupid person who had interrupted my moment in time. "Go away" I whispered, knowing he couldn't hear me. Finally he figured it out and he told me not to jump, that it would be a mistake, and that my life was worth living. I snorted. What did he know? He didn't know me. He had no idea of the pain I carried inside. He had no clue as to what anguish I felt every day when I walked into that fuckin' school. "Go away" I said, louder this time, my voice thick in my throat.

He must have heard me, because he began to speak, talking to me like the cops talked to the suicidal victims on those television shows. I snorted again, he was just a boy, probably not much older than I was, and he had no clue as to why I was up there, or the reason why I wanted to jump from that crumbling brick ledge. I told him to go away, even as more tears rolled down my face.

"Let's at least talk about it." he said, "Maybe I can help you." I shook my head. I didn't want help, not from him, not from anyone. I had made my decision before I climbed up there, where was he then? Where was anyone who could have helped me before I made my final decision?

I knew I was being unfair, but I didn't care. If you needed help, you had to ask for it, that's what everybody said. I had spoken to no one, I made up my mind all on my own. I turned my eyes upwards, looking at the cold face of the moon, ignoring the intrusive boy on the ground below. Maybe if I pretended the boy wasn't there, maybe then he would go away.

"Hello moon." I said, and my voice got stuck in my throat, "How's things out there in space? Is it cold? At least you have the sun at your back, at least you know your place in the universe." I chuckled, a grim, rattling little sound with absolutely no humor in it. The moon did not answer me, nor did he join me in my grim laughter. He simply stared down, and passed mute judgment on me. I closed my eyes. I felt a wave of dizziness, and the urge to lean outwards, to reach for the trees became irresistible. All I had to do was lean a little more, just a bit, and then all my problems would be over. I would know true peace. Then the wave of dizziness passed, and I felt empty. What was stopping me?

The wind picked up a little, and I felt a chill on my bare skin. Even after I was gone, the wind and the grass and the trees would still be, round here. It would be as if I was never there at all. I should have found comfort in that, but all it did was make me want to cry harder. I resisted the urge to shed tears for myself, and I swallowed my anger and my sorrow, and I held them deep in my belly, keeping the tears at bay.

I opened my eyes and looked down and I saw that the boy was gone. I smiled, glad to know that I wished him away and that he had left. If only other things were so easy to wish away. I sighed, and even though my arms were getting tired from the way I was holding them, I kept them up, for the ache in my shoulders gave me something solid to focus on. I relished the pain, because soon it would be gone forever.

Suddenly I heard a scuffling sound behind me. I wondered what it could be. A raccoon maybe, or a bat? I tried to ignore my curiosity, but I had to know. I had to know who else was round here.

I turned my head and that's when I saw him. It was the boy from down on the ground. Except that he wasn't down on the grass anymore, he was up there, on the roof of the library with me. I could see his face clearly. He looked scared. I knew his fear wasn't for himself, nor was it of me. He was frightened because of my determination. He saw my concrete resolve to end it all.

"Hey." he said, his voice timid and careful. I watched him, seeing him trying to edge closer. I spoke to him, annoyed that he had interrupted my perfect evening. "Stop, don't come any closer, or I'll jump."

"Okay." he said, his voice full of despair. He was quiet for the longest while, and he didn't move, he just stood behind me, like the sun stands behind the moon. I turned my face back to the moon, and for a moment, I understood why the moon looked towards the earth the way that it does. It made perfect sense at that very moment in time. The moon was a cold-hearted orb that ruled the night.

Then the boy began to talk again, softly at first, almost as if he was speaking only to himself, but then his voice got louder as he was talking to the back of my head. He told me things that I had heard before, things that I had listened to on all those stupid police dramas on television, or that I had seen written on inspirational posters at school. They were words, just words. They didn't mean anything. They had no bearing on me or on my life.

And then, as if he understood that what he said had no meaning for me, he said something that made me pause. He told me that he knew about this place. He said that the library was the tallest building in this shitty little Midwestern town, and that he was once standing where I was, thinking the same thoughts that had brought me there.

I wondered if it was a trick; but I realized it wasn't. I could tell from the tone of his voice that he was baring his soul to me. He was telling me the truth. I felt another tear roll down my cheek, and this one, this tear, it wasn't for me. It was for him. I put my arms down, and my shoulders groaned with stiffness. I felt dizzy and unsteady again, as if I might fall. The wind pushed against my back, and I almost let it push me over.

"Please," he said, his voice breaking with emotion, "Let's just talk, if only for a little while. Come down so we can talk, just you and me." I turned around to face him and I see that his face was shiny. He was crying, too. I felt a sudden sense of shame. I had done the unthinkable, I had made another human being cry. I found myself suddenly torn between jumping over the edge and ending it all or doing as he asked, coming down off the edge of the wall so that we could talk.

I waited for what seemed an interminably long time, trying to decide. My night time friends, the wind, the grass, the moon and the trees were waiting for me, but they weren't crying for me. This stranger, this boy that was about my age, he was crying for me, because of me, and I felt guilty for making him feel sad.

I stepped down from the wall coping, and he took a step towards me, then hesitated. I watched him and he watched me. I took a step towards him, slowly, as if I was unsure. We were only a couple of feet apart now. I could see the curve of his cheek, the thrust of his chin, the delicate shape of his nose and the way the wind ruffled his dark brown hair. He was a lot like me, and I took another step forward.

Suddenly I was in his arms, and I held onto him tightly, like he was a bit of flotsam and I was lost at sea, trying not to sink beneath the waves. He was crying, and so was I. We were two lost souls, and he whispered in my ear, and the things he told me made me cry even harder. We sank to the cold rough gravel roof of the library to sit together and he was still holding me in his arms, making soothing sounds that calmed me.

I felt him smoothing back my hair, and his hand was warm as he wiped away the tears on my cheek. I felt terrible, not for what I was going to do, but because I made him feel pain at my attempted suicide. I didn't want to hurt him, or anyone, I was just tired of all the crap of living in a place where no one understood what it meant to be a pathetic loser like me.

We talked and he shared the story of his life with me, and I shared mine with him. He was like me, and in a way, were brothers. Not the biological kind, but of the same tribe. When he kissed me, I felt something I thought had died in me a long time ago. I felt a sudden warmth in my heart, like the heat of a thousand burning suns. I felt love. I knew then I was not a pathetic loser, and that I had never been.

He told me that he loved me, even though he didn't even know my name. I believed him, because I loved him, too. And I felt grateful to him for saving me, and I vowed to never do anything to make him feel that sort of pain again. He was the one thing I had always wanted, but had never known. He was my friend. My one true friend round here.

The End

Voting

This story is part of the 2018-2019 story challenge "Recovery". The other stories may be found at the challenge home page. Please read them, too. The voting period of 4 January to 25 January 2019 is when the voting is open. This story may be rated, below, against a set of criteria, and may be rated against other stories on the challenge home page.

This challenge is to write a story based on the recovery of one or more of the cast from a dark place. There is no picture. Instead we are looking for tales which are able to paint a dark word picture and show recovery and hope.

Round Here

You may tick as many statements as you wish. Stories my also be discussed in detail on the Literary Merit forum

I will seek this author's work out
It grabbed my attention early on
I had to know what happened
I identified with at least one of the cast
Gritty - it had an edge to it
Realistic - it could have happened that way
I found it hard to follow
Good characterisation
I feel better for having read it
It was romantic
It was erotic
Too much explicit sex
It had the right amount of sex, if there was any
Not enough explicit sex
I have read and enjoyed other work by this author
It was sufficiently dark, but the recovery was missing something
It was not sufficiently dark, but the recovery was great
It was both sufficiently dark and had a great recovery


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