Dying to Live

Jacob remembered the progression of his brother’s disease. The increasing scars on his stomach from all of the surgeries that were supposed to save him. The shunt that was inserted into his side to drain the fluid from his lungs. The tumor that never stopped growing.

Jacob remembered his brother’s funeral. That person in the coffin wasn’t him, not the fair-haired boy that had been so full of life and laughter. It didn’t even look like him, it was the last time he saw his brother and it didn’t even look like him. Most of all he remembered the way the carpet felt under his feet as he made his way to the coffin for the first time. His mom and dad put their arms around him and they moved forward together. But all he could feel was the thickness of the carpet under his feet. It seemed that if he stepped too heavily that fabric would swallow his feet and he would be stuck as if in quicksand, unable to reach the coffin. Maybe that would have been for the best.
He had been fifteen. Watching the progression and inevitable result of the disease brought a realization to his young mind. Time had killed his brother, just as it would kill everyone. Living to die, he could never comprehend that before. But life was not an unlimited never-ending stretch. Everything that he now did, little things and big, came with a number. A limited number of times he would do those things again. Kiss his girlfriend, drive down the road, smoke a cigarette, all of these were tagged. Tagged with that number that always counted down.
His mother had told him years before that if God wanted his brother, God was not going to get him without a fight. And fight she did. Exhausting every medical possibility, exploring every conceivable cure, spending countless hours convincing his brother not to give up on himself. Jacob had watched as she trapped herself in the bubble of trying to save another. A bubble that she was trapped in still, but it had turned to one of regret and of questions that would never have any answers.
He himself had found drugs and alcohol when he was fourteen, a year before his brother passed away. He had needed something to detach himself from it all. Something to make the smelly liquid that drained from his brother’s lungs not seem so horrible. And after he had died, Jacob had needed something to escape that undeniable realization. Living to die.
And so he created his own bubble, one with hazy walls that protected him from the pain of the world, a place where time was distorted and didn’t matter much anyway. A place where he remembered how to laugh.
July 4th
Jacob sat with his girlfriend Amy on the beach. Darkness crept over the sand and they waited for the fireworks to begin. The beach was crowded but not as packed as it had been the year before. Waves that were sent forth from the powerboats on the lake lapped at the shore with a quiet intensity. It was hot. A July haze that was not relenting even though night was falling. Jake cracked open another beer, the twelve pack he had purchased from the store on the hill was half gone already. Jake loved the store on the hill, it was run by Arabs who never carded anyone. The liquid hit his stomach and then his brain. His mind relaxed, the world grew still.
Amy was talking to him about the college classes she was going to take in the fall. She was still working on her first can of beer. He thought about his own future, he hadn’t committed to any schools, hell he had been lucky just to graduate high school. He had been dating Amy for a year now, and lately talk of marriage had entered into their conservations. He subtly turned the conversation a different way when she brought it up.
“Jake? Are you listening to me?”
Shit. “Yeah babe, I hear you, I’m just relaxing that’s all. I’m sure you’ll do fine in Sociology, don’t worry about it.”
“I stopped talking about Sociology like three minutes ago.”
Shit.
She moved closer to him on the blanket they shared on the sand, put her head on his chest. “It’s okay, the fireworks should start any minute now anyway.”
And they did start, green and red explosions that drowned out the stars transforming them into nothing more than jeweled memories. It was during one of the green explosions that time stood still, because that is when Jake saw Mary for the first time, although he didn’t know her name yet. Her long blond hair, her burning blue eyes, her tan body that was covered with a small tank top and some of the shortest shorts Jake had ever seen. She glanced briefly at him as she took a drag from a white filtered cigarette, all of this illuminated by the flash and green hue of the fireworks. Time moved so slowly in this moment that Jake was sure he could have counted the grains of sand on the beach if he had wanted to.
Then it passed. Just like that things sped back up and she had gone. The fireworks roared through the finale and then that too was over. He tossed his can of beer into the bushes and packed the blanket up. They were almost back to his truck when a voice called his name.
A red-haired girl named Monica leaned out of the open t-tops of a beat-up blue Camaro. “Jake, Amy, there’s a keggar at some dude’s house, you guys comin or what?”
“Sure”, Jake yelled back and instantly was rewarded by the look from Amy. Amy did not like Monica because she had tried to kiss Jake at a party over Christmas break. But Monica had been drunk and Jake had known her for a long time. Not that any of this mattered to Amy of course.
“I don’t want to stay out that late”, she warned him.
Jake sighed to himself. “We won’t.”
He followed the Camaro in a blur of tailights and yellow lines.

Dying to Live

mtda

Transfer, United States

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Artist's Description

Something I wrote awhile ago, that I am just now reworking and rewriting. This is just a snippet, I want to see what people think of it.

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