When Freddy woke up from his nap, he was ready for some fun. He had waited endlessly for this special day. As he got into his red and blue Spiderman suit and strapped on his flimsy mask, he reminisced about the days he wasn’t able to afford such a luxurious outfit. But now he was ready to somehow, someway obtain what he couldn’t get as a child.
Leaving his house filled with spooky decorations, Freddy locked the door with a smirk on his face. He went from house to house, but nobody would give him what he wanted. He tripped over jack o’ lanterns and received piercing stares from parents as well as from the pumpkins in their front yards. He looked like a hunched over fool, not Spiderman. Only a few people answered the door, and those who did closed it as quickly as they had opened it.
Freddy’s back stiffened as he left one house, and he collapsed on a family’s front yard, throwing his empty plastic basket across the lawn as he let out a scream in agony. The family who had so hurriedly slammed the door rushed outside to check on the poor man. They ran past their inflatable black cat to see him lying there. He moaned and groaned, wincing in pain. Kids came over with their parents to see the commotion. A father with fake blood dripping down his face offered his hand to help him get up, but he refused the hand. A kid who was probably a little too old for this was dressed as Ron Weasley. He didn’t need to do much to look like him.
A circle of children and parents looked down at Freddy. One child poked him with a black cardboard scythe. Then, as quickly as a vampire sucks blood, Freddy leapt up and grabbed the two largest baskets from the trick or treaters. As he sprinted away, he yelled, “I got the tricks, and I got the treats!” A stupid thing to say.
He ran off to the next street where he tried to hail a cab. But there aren’t any taxis in Hoople, North Dakota. Freddy gave up quickly and decided to run all the way back home. But when he returned home, something felt off. “Something feels off,” he said to himself.
As he walked up to his front door, he realized everything was silent. He glanced back and noticed every light in every house had been turned off. Rumbling sounds started to rise from afar. He stood and listened. The sounds grew louder. It was like the screeching sound of a subway car or the deathly scream of Marion Crane in Psycho. It felt like an earthquake in his mind. “It’s not earthquake season,” he said, trying to reason with himself. But there’s not really any such thing as earthquake season.
The noise couldn’t get any louder. Freddy grabbed his ears and fell to the ground. He started rolling around in the driveway. The candy from his baskets had spilled all over. He let out a scream, but the shrieking noise was too overwhelming. He couldn’t scream at all. It felt like he was drowning in space. He had no control. He rolled around with his mouth open, but he couldn’t emit any sound. Looking down at his legs, he saw blood spewing out of them. His eyes widened, and you could see the spewing blood in the reflection of his iris. Blood dripped down his eyes like tears. He kept wiping his eyes, but the blood tears wouldn’t stop. In an instance, all the noise cut off.
It was quiet.
Freddy stood up. Everything was still dark, but it felt more normal. His ears weren’t ringing. Everything was still. There was no wind out, and all the blades of grass stood up perfectly straight. He looked down his driveway and saw all his candy on the ground. He stood still. Next to his right foot, lay a Twix bar. He missed this smell. Bending down, he picked it up. A small smile grew on his face. A knife suddenly was forced through Freddy’s heart. The knife went straight through his back and out his chest. Blood exploded all over the place. The murderer grabbed the Twix bar that used to be in Freddy’s hands. A small smile grew on his face. “Now I’ve got the tricks, and I have the--“ A knife was forced through the murderer’s heart. He fell down, dead, on top of Freddy’s dead body. The new murderer looked around anxiously as he went to grab the Twix bar that had a couple drops of blood on the wrapper before a bullet hurled through the air and killed the guy. A neighbor, hiding in the bush, was holding a shot gun. He rushed over to pick up the Twix. He fumbled with the wrapper as he struggled to shove it in his mouth. As he chewed, he started coughing. His body lost control, and his eyes rolled back in his head. He coughed up blood everywhere until he passed out on top of the other dead bodies.
A few middle schoolers sat around a lunch table.
“That didn’t happen, Rufus,” Charlie said.
“It did, too, Charlie. I swear to God!” Rufus was defensive.
“Do you even believe in God?” Rufus wasn’t expecting that question.
The bell rang, and it was time for class. The kids grabbed their bags and walked through the hallway. Charlie turned to a girl he liked and said, “Rufus is a doofus.” Annabel turned to Charlie and said, “I think he’s kinda cute.”
Annabel walked into class. Charlie walked behind her with a frown. But nobody seemed to notice the old man in the pathetic Spiderman suit creeping in the corner. Freddy was alive, and he wanted some candy.
You can’t run away from your problems, but you can try.
I knew this before I did it. I always knew this. But when you feel you’ve had enough, there’s nothing that can override that feeling. Some people say certain feelings of love can override it. Or maybe even some extreme feelings of hunger. But I don’t like those people.
Sunday night was one of the worst nights of my life. When I returned home that night, I went to my room to write down all of my problems. I opened my desk drawer and took out a yellow legal pad. I grabbed my blue uni-ball pen. It is advertised as the pen that doesn’t smudge. It smudges. I started writing furiously. I don’t know if the writing was fueled by anger, sadness, or something else, but I was writing faster than ever. I wrote about my compulsive lying, my control issues, and my anxieties I have about my wife. I wrote about my OCD and the things I can’t do anymore because of it. I wrote down many other problems, but I don’t want to mention those.
I wrote pages and pages until I felt I should go to sleep. But when I closed my eyes in bed, nothing changed. I was still writing my problems in my head. So I got back out of bed and started writing again. My mind was racing, and my heart was pounding. I was thinking about everything, but I couldn’t think at all. My mind went places I didn’t think it could go. I started hating people I love and loving people I hate.
I was scared, yet I wasn’t able to think why I was scared. I felt bad. That’s all I knew for sure, and I believed that it would be nice if someone stabbed me right now – THAT would override this pain. Because I didn’t think love was going to come save me out of nowhere. I had no appetite.
My thoughts continued, but the fear dwindled away. The sun was soon to rise, so I needed to start my day. I ran out of the house in a hurried manner, and I didn’t close the door. I just ran.
I picked up the pace. I ran through my neighborhood, past the oak trees, out into the street. I ran to the highway, and I started to feel the heat. I thought physical exhaustion would kill off my thoughts, but I was brutally mistaken. They just became more extreme. I didn’t feel my feet pounding on the pavement, but I felt my thoughts pounding my brain. I thought about my past feelings of love and hunger. I doubted it all. I started to believe I never had those feelings. I was never in love, I thought. And I never really felt true hunger.
It wasn’t a good feeling. I had lost the belief of my own memories. I didn’t take them seriously. Not only that, but I didn’t think they happened. I knew they didn’t happen. I knew I was never loved. I knew I was never hungry.
Still, certain memories flashed through my head. I thought about Oakley, and I thought about Chloe. I thought about Adriana. I thought about some others. It was all my imagination. That’s a sad thought to have, especially when you’re sprinting down a highway.
I think several cars almost hit me. A bright yellow truck hit me ever so slightly. The bumper hit my bum, but it really just nudged me forward. It was a push that told me to go faster. It’s one of those metaphors.
I ran down the broken white line that divides the lanes on the highway. But my OCD was no longer in control. It didn’t impede me from running all out. Neither did my thoughts. They both picked up the pace.
My body was pulled toward the green rectangle that said Travis Street Exit. I ran down the exit ramp, accelerating even more. I probably looked like a professional runner at this point. A good look for me, I think.
As I took the first left turn after coming down the ramp, I collided into a Hyundai Santa Fe Sport. What a stupid car. A 185-hp 2.4L 4-cylinder engine. People should care less about cars.
I lay on the street. I didn’t writhe in pain. I didn’t writhe in anything actually. I just lay there.
My eyes were closed, but I knew I wasn’t dead. I knew I wasn’t dying. I had thought that I had been dying for the past twelve hours, and somehow this was the solution that found me.
I don’t know what that means. I don’t know what any of this means. But it felt good. It felt good to get knocked to the ground by a stupid car. I wish I had known that earlier. Then I could’ve gotten a good night sleep for once. No more anxiety, no more stress. Just run from your problems til you get hit by a car. Then, you’ll be okay.
The guy who hit me offered to get me a ride home. I said I was fine walking. As I walked home, I thought I was in some kind of space movie. I laughed hysterically the whole way. I felt like I should be crying but no tears ever came out. I would look around and breathe heavily and then burst out laughing again. People were looking at me, and that just made me laugh even harder. It was the kind of laugh when something tells your body something is funny. But the brain doesn’t get the message of what it is that’s funny. So you laugh uncontrollably, but you can’t figure out why. And the confusion just makes you laugh more because it’s so funny that you think you’re laughing for no reason.
I wanted to share the feelings I experienced running down the highway. But there was no one to share them with. I knew that. Because you are always alone.
I think everyone can come to terms with their anxieties, but you will always be fucking alone. No one can enter your head. No one will ever fully know you or understand you. It’s impossible to truly get to know somebody. I don’t like that. But instead of closing myself off even more, maybe I should share my thoughts. Maybe I should allow people to know parts of me. Or maybe I should get hit by another car.
I don’t think anyone has ever loved me. I think if someone did love me, it would be for the wrong reasons. But I’m also not sure that there are any right reasons to love someone. So I don’t have love. But I am starving.
Standing in line at Potbelly Sandwich Shop is my Friday tradition after work. This past Friday, I browsed the menu for several minutes even though I already knew what I would order. When it was time for me to order I asked, “How are you?” She didn’t answer. She knew my question was for the sole purpose of escaping silence. I was hoping she would at least compliment my dress, but she was too focused on the art of making sandwiches.
As I metaphorically twiddled my thumbs and actually scratched behind my right ear, I turned to the sound of someone walking into the shop. It was Rudy. He didn’t see me, but I bet he could feel my presence.
We were married once. Well, sort of. I don’t remember if I cheated on him, or if he cheated on me. I’m not quite sure, and I don’t really care. But I’ve missed him for quite some time.
I looked at his eyes as he looked at the potbelly pig on the wall. He looked the same, but his eyes looked different. They looked like they hadn’t seen love in a while but didn’t mind it.
The eyes moved from the pig to the menu on the wall. He scanned the menu, but I knew he wanted the roast beef. People change, but not that much. Before it was his turn to order, he looked at the people in front to size up the other hungry sandwich eaters. Finally, his precious eyes landed on me. “Hey, Syrup,” he said softly. He never liked honey.
I walked over to him but didn’t say a word. I think a worker asked me something, but I’m not sure. You shouldn’t need to ask if I want avocado on my sandwich.
We looked into each other’s eyes. It was like we recognized each other but didn’t know why. We didn’t care. Neither one of us smiled, but it felt sort of pleasant. Our faces were an inch or two apart. I thought about leaning in slightly to kiss him, but it didn’t seem right. I wanted to hold his clammy hands. I saw his hand move as if to initiate a handshake, but he knew that was wrong. We stared for a while. I wished our blinks would sync up, but we were rarely in sync. I never noticed his eyes were hazel. I always thought they were brown. I had lost the memory of the way he used to look at me, but it didn’t matter because he was looking at me right then.
Then he wrapped his arms around me, and without thinking, I wrapped my arms around him. I squeezed him tight. We rocked side to side, holding each other as if someone was desperately attempting to pull us apart. The hug felt like it lasted thirty minutes. We didn’t want to let go. We didn’t care that people were staring at us. We didn’t even care about our sandwiches getting cold. We just cared for each other. It was this weird feeling like we couldn’t leave each other because we were never actually together.
The next thing I knew, he was walking away. I don’t know how it ended, but that hug will last forever. “I’ll see ya,” he said as the door closed behind him. We won’t see each other again. He knew that. But saying goodbye didn’t feel right.
I watched him walk away. The woman next to me had tears in her eyes. “That is why life sucks,” she said.
I smiled and thought to myself, That is why life is great.
©2023 Jake Schick