No Control - No Control

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No Control
Jim Carnicelli
4/20/2021   |   7/19/2021   |   7/12/2024   |   4,254

4,254 words
FNASR offered
Kira Carnicelli
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No Control

by Kira Carnicelli

4/20/2021    7/19/21    4,254    18:54
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You think you know things. Like who the main people in your life really are. Or what’s going to happen next – you will go home after work. Day will follow night. You will wake up.

You think you know what it feels like to be in control ... and out of it.

But in reality, you’re wrong. You are so desperately wrong.

I’d known Rick since childhood – at least, I thought I did. We lived in the same neighborhood until high school, and when he moved, he was just a car ride away.

Because our parents were close, so were we. He was cute. Handsome. Quiet. The type of person who always left you a little dissatisfied, wanting more. And the simple encouragement of his presence, with a single word or glance, let you think you’d get it, eventually.

I wanted to bring him out of his shell. When he’d go along with my games, I thought I was winning. He remained aloof, but that’s just how he was. I could change that.

As we entered middle school, then high school, I branched off. I was quite popular. But Rick stayed the same, distant, shut off. You’d think I’d lose interest or become impatient. But I felt my place was with him. He was the first boy I had a crush on. And we were practically family already. Don’t most children – little girls especially – have fantasies about meeting their one true love? And lots of times, isn’t it the awkward, quiet guy who was always there for you? No one really set me straight on that. My family just assumed all was normal. That we were good friends, that I was good for him. That there was no tension between us.

Admittedly, I thought so, too.

I would set my social, enthusiastic, popular friends aside and go sit with him in his corner. He always had a notebook in his hands, and he was always doing something in it but wouldn’t let me see. My other friends would hassle me for spending time with him. They’d call me at home and invite me out. I wasn’t used to it. I was always the one reaching out, inviting him over. Or being brought mutually together by our families’ activities. My popular friends overwhelmed me at times with their energy, but I loved them. There were even times, which I can openly admit to now, when I regretted choosing Rick over them. They gave back so much more.

And yet what was his obligation? To give me all I hoped for, right now? Wasn’t it not the time? Nor his personality? What right did I have to demand changes when I clearly hadn’t earned them yet? I would eventually. He would be ready one day, to laugh with me, to talk openly and display the excitement I longed for. To invite me out. To take part of the lead in our friendship. Just not yet. And I couldn’t lose sight of that. To do so and abandon him would just be bad. And I wasn’t a bad friend.

I almost wish that I could blame my parents for this, but if anything, I can only blame them for not seeing the signs that I kept so thoroughly hidden – and not on purpose. They were just thoughts. Private, innocent thoughts that I assumed were normal. Apparently, any action they led to wasn’t abnormal enough to be noticable.

Teenage angst set in for us both, as it does for youth. I started sharing my innermost thoughts with him over the lunch hour, and those thoughts were increasingly dark. They contained annoyances and frustrations towards my parents for their unreasonable demands, like keeping up with homework and chores and acting like an adult when so much was going on. I confided how I had so many feelings to sort out. How I felt lonely and couldn’t figure out where I belonged. How I didn’t understand what the point was of school, the social pressures, and stressors at home. Why couldn’t it just be over, and we were on to college, or work, or summer break already?

And finally, I started to get my wish. He opened up about feeling nothing. Nothing but boredom. Of wondering, was he normal? Did no one else truly feel the way he felt? Was he alone? Our conversation continued for four years. Off and on, he insisted no one could understand him, not even me. I set out to prove him wrong, that I got it. That I felt the same way, and I accepted him. That I would do so unconditionally, forever.

Rick showed me his notebook, and I ignored the feelings of uneasiness the words and drawings evoked in me. He was my friend, whom I loved. These were just how he expressed himself. No, I never wanted to murder my parents or made sketches of doing so, but sometimes I got so angry, I fantasized about running away – with him – and never having to talk to them again. Not all the time, though. Not continuously.

Some of his drawings frightened, offended, and nauseated me. I believed his answers about going online for gruesome references. I ignored my negative feelings, reminding myself that the young man drawing these images was my quiet, thoughtful, safe friend. And these were nothing more than drawings. I continued to accept him, and he received it well.

We became intimate, although not fully. He wouldn’t go that far. He said he couldn’t; that it didn’t feel right. Sometimes, he talked about needing more, and I tried desperately to convey to him that whatever more he needed, I would provide to the best of my ability. He told me he first had to figure out what that was, and that he had to do it alone. I couldn’t sway him otherwise.

I went to college and lost track of him. He didn’t reach out, and neither did I, even though I thought of him often. I met more people like my popular high school friends. People who were excited to see everyone, including me. Friends who invited me to study sessions and random outings for coffee or lunch. Some of those people were guys, and they were more than friendly. I liked quite a few of them and struggled with myself. I thought of Rick. I longed for him, but I longed less and less as the months went by. Finally, I wondered why he never reached out to me. Why every time we hung out was because of me, or when he did call, the conversation started with, “My parents said I should.” He wasn’t doing his part, and he really hadn’t throughout our lives. Did he take me for granted? Did he not like me? Had he simply tolerated me that whole time?

Well, that was fine. If he didn’t need me, I didn’t need him.

The other guys were amazing. They were satisfying and fulfilling in the way I’d craved. For the most part. Enough that I let him go. I met new people, got my degree, and started my career.

Then I saw him one day, in the bookstore section of my favorite cafe. I was on my lunch break, just grabbing an afternoon pick-me-up, but I stopped to say hi. His large, dark eyes widened a touch when he saw me. His voice was breathy – surprised and reverent. We hadn’t seen each other in over four years. He’d aged well. Although still slender, he’d filled out just a touch, developing sharper features and some stubble on his face. His dark hair, which he always kept short in our youth, had grown out to look just a little shaggy. It looked good. I was excited by both his familiarity and his newness. I was drawn to both. I invited him to dinner.

“I never realized how unique you are,” he said that evening. “Not until you were gone. I can’t talk to anyone else like I did with you. Nor do I want to.”

I took his hand in mine. “Have you tried?”

“I can read people. None of them could take it.” As he spoke throughout the night, he’d make eye contact with me for an instant or two before looking down at his hands. He still wore loose jeans and open sweatshirts over tee shirts, only now they fit him better and hung relaxed on him, complimenting his frame.

“How do you know?”

“I just know. Most people can’t read others as well as I can, so it’s okay that you don’t understand. Just believe me when I say that when they get too close, they draw back.”

Inside, I recoiled from the insult. I’d forgotten this quality of his to insult you so casually and subtly that you almost wondered what your problem was for feeling offended. Surely it wasn’t that bad? Surely he didn’t mean it the way it sounded? Or regardless, you shouldn’t feel hurt because he’s just talking.

As in our youth, I changed the subject. “So, what’s going on with you these days?”

“Not much. Looking for a job. There’s not much here for psychology majors.”

“So you graduated?” For the first time, I noticed that he didn’t ask questions, unlike my college friends. And this had been normal in our relationship. I always had to express interest and lead. And for what? No matter – I may never see him again. Or I may see the beginning of success. He paid me a compliment. He called me unique. That was a major change for Rick.

“Yep, about a year ago. In high school, we used to ask all the time, what for? What’s the point? And you’d dream of being in college, with a change in scenery. Or in the workforce. Well, now that we’re there, I’m still wondering why. Nothing’s there, except the same unfulfilled demands and wishes.”

“That’s so grim.”

“I’m grim. Haven’t you noticed?”

“Yeah, but I would hope college changed that. It did for me. I have a purpose now. My job is a choice. I care about it.”

“Our parents always argued over if we’d stay friends.” His voice dropped to a sulking hiss. I used to hate when that happened. I felt hurt and ashamed, like I’d failed my friend. Forced him to step back instead of forward. “I figured we wouldn’t. I had my suspicions in high school. Then when you left for college I knew I was right.”

“You lived at home, then?” I asked. “Did you become close with anyone?”

“I already told you, they pulled away once they got to know me. Soon I learned to read who would scare easy and saw they all would. So no, I was not close to anyone.”

I paused and took a deep breath. When he was upset, I had to choose between apologizing or challenging him. But even a challenge usually ended with me relenting. I didn’t want that to be the case tonight. “Can I tell you what I’m noticing?”

He scoffed. “You’re asking my permission?”

“Well ... I see you’re upset, and I don’t want our time together to end on this note. I know I’ll offend you, but I don’t want to lose you.” I paused again, then added, “So yes, I’m asking if you’re okay with taking this conversation further.”

“Fine!” He accented his exasperation with a dismissive wave of his hand as if to say, “I don’t care. I can’t stop you anyway.”

“You seem really unhappy to me. I want to be there for you in any way I can. So what can I do?”

He was silent for a long time. He frowned at the table, with his hands clenched in front of him. I waited until I thought he’d shut me out entirely and just wanted me to leave. I said his name a few times, putting my hand on top of his. I’d always liked touching him but never could do it enough. There was something soft and familiar about his skin. As a kid, I liked imagining us as prince and princess, hero and heroine in a movie. Sitting with him now, after four years apart, I felt the strength and permanence of that desire. Even lying dormant at college while I dated others, it still existed. In the rare, tiny moments with nothing to distract me, I fantasized into Rick the qualities of my lovers. How great would it be to come home and impart my knowledge to him and see him flourish in the new dynamic between us?

Even after my silent, superficial goodbyes to him as I sat in class, whispering replies to my classmates and new crush, I carried the fantasy, convincing myself it was only fantasy and not a burning wish. It shifted from a plan to transform him and to the titillating day dream of anticipation; meeting him by chance in a coffee shop, sharing a brief conversation, studying his reactions, and maybe – or maybe not – meeting again.

Now, I sat, waiting and losing hope as my self respect urged me to stop lusting after someone who in twenty-five years had proven less promising than men I’d spent a month with. And yet I knew I would still fantasize, even upon deciding he wasn’t worth it and that I could do so much better. That was just my lot in life, I guess.

With a sigh, I whispered goodbye and got to my feet, gathering my purse. I left the restaurant, paying our bill. As I stepped out the door, I heard, “Wait,” but was outside by the time I could process it. In the second it took to process, I decided I didn’t care.

But as I turned in the direction of home, a hand on my arm stopped me. I responded with stillness. Then I met his gaze. His eyes were wide with something I couldn’t place. Desperation? Excitement? Fear? They all fit.

Then he was in front of me, a hand on each arm. He stepped forward, urging me back until I was pressed against the brick siding. I stared up at him. We were the same height until seventh grade, then he shot a few inches above me. I was delighted. Now, the height difference seemed so much more. Was he taller? Likely. And he hadn’t stood this close to me in so, so long.

Although I was fixed solely on him, I noticed a few passersby pausing, perhaps wondering if I was in danger. I wouldn’t dare break eye contact with him now, not for anything. I became aware that my hands had raised to lightly grasp his coat sleeves and understood that they could take this as comfort. There was something intimate and reassuring about the way my fingers felt the fabric, like a child toying with a parent’s jewelry.

He leaned in, and his mouth was on mine. He was awkward and still, but I responded by wrapping my arms around his neck and moving our lips together, guiding him. He caught on quickly, and we stayed connected until forced to come up for air.

“Come home with me,” he said breathlessly. “Or better yet, do you live alone?”  

“Yes, come. It’s close.”

He walked with his arm slung over my shoulder. He stood in my apartment with the hint of a smile on his lips. I hadn’t seen him this content before. Every time he’d been to my house – my parents’ house, that is, in our youth – he stood unaware and intimidated, like a king who didn’t know he stood in his own castle. But now, he stood in my apartment like he knew he belonged there. He took up the space, head held tall, shoulders wide and relaxed, arms at his side.

“You have no idea what I’ve wanted to do to you,” he breathed.

I locked the door and closed the drapes. “Show me.”

Underneath his excitement, I saw the undercurrents of nervousness. “Do you still have that awesome black scarf? Or one like it?”

I knew the one he meant. I retrieved it from the coat closet and held it out to him. He had me hold my wrists out for him, close together, while he bound them in the fabric. I grinned, showing my own nervousness. “I’ve never done this before.”

“Neither have I.”

“We’ve known each other so long, it doesn’t matter,” I said. “Keep going.”

“All right then.” He grasped my wrists in one hand and led me towards the bedroom. “Let’s go.”

My dreams, coming true, I thought. I absorbed the sight of Rick leading me through my own apartment, finally stepping up, confident, coming out of his shell.

He surveyed the room. “It’s clean.”

“That can change,” I suggested.

He grinned, and that grin lit up my heart. “Yes, it can.” He pushed me back onto the bed. “On your knees.”

I folded my knees under me so I knelt. He stood back a bit, just out of reach. I kept my bound hands to my chest despite my desire to reach out to him. He looked me over for a moment with appreciation.

“I really never thought this moment would come,” he said. “Certainly not so soon.”

“It’s been our whole lives,” I countered. “I’ve waited long enough.”

He chuckled, and I felt my insides clench with pleasure.

“My god,” I murmured. “I’ve waited my whole life to see you like this. You’re so beautiful, you know that?”

“When we were fifteen,” he began, reaching to stroke my hair, “I thought you might be my first. You accepted even the darkest parts of me when everyone else thought I was troubled. They were right, I am troubled. But you loved me anyway.”

“I’ve always loved you.” I squirmed, and I wondered if he could see it. “Take me, Rick. I’m done waiting.”

He smiled wider. “Yes, you are. And so am I.” But he took a step back, further out of reach. I moaned and extended my wrists, knowing the gesture was useless and finding it so incredibly hot.

He reached into his jean pocket. With an expression so filled with lust and exhilaration, he revealed the item in his hand. And it took me by surprise.

His pocket knife. He opened it with one flick of his wrist. It was a long blade, one technically illegal to carry because it was lethal. The first twinges of uncertainty stirred in me. I looked into his eyes, feeling the fear shining in mine.

His smile had faded to a look of awe. He relished my expression. His eyes danced with delight. He loved my uncertainty. I was in denial. I didn’t want the moment to change – but it already had. I didn’t want the joy to fade. So I let myself think maybe this was part of it for him. A kink. An illusion. He couldn’t possibly use it – he was my safe, harmless friend. He didn’t have it in him.

The long, sharp blade flashed under the light as he raised it to my eye level, letting me see what was coming. Did he know I wouldn’t fight or scream? Or was he just that cocky? No, he wasn’t! Rick wasn’t that person!

His arm swung back and forward.

“No!” I choked out.

But the blade sliced through my throat effortlessly, and I could not stop the searing pain that washed through me. I could not stop the hot blood that poured from my wound and over my body, my clothing, my bed. Even as I raised my bound hands to cover the wound, it did no good. I couldn’t stop the blood or the pain. The scarf held tight. It wouldn’t release me either. And I couldn’t scream or protect myself. The scarf wouldn’t break, and the cut wouldn’t seal. I couldn’t speak. Blood flooded my windpipe, and I choked. My air cut off. My body thrashed, beyond my control.

I could still see, and I saw my friend standing before me with the bloody knife in his hand. I could see the shock and amazement on his face, as if he hadn’t believed he could really do it, but now that he had, he loved what he saw.

Even as the grin spread across Rick’s face, I wanted to beg him to do something. Call 911, suppress the bleeding – anything! But why would he do that? And why would I ask him, if I were capable? Instead, I dropped to the floor, too shaken and weak to stand, and dragged myself away from him. Through the blood. I had to get my phone from my pocket, but I had to get away from him, too. And there was so much blood. My hands soaked in the futile struggle to stop the mess, to push the draining life back into me.

But it didn’t work. I grew weaker, and Rick just watched. It didn’t take long for my strength to fail entirely. I collapsed on the floor. He took it in like a kid watching a circus. Gurgling noises escaped my throat as I used my last resort – sound. But even that was gone. I lay there while some part of me clung to the hope that he would come to his senses, or that someone would find us and get help. But of course, there was no reason for either of those to happen, and they were my only chance now. Why did I have to hold on to him so? Why didn’t I accept that he wouldn’t be what I wanted and just move on? There were so many people I could have built a stronger connection with. None of them would have done this. I’m sure of it. Mostly.

But then, I didn’t see this coming. I should have. No one spent more time with him than me. And yet, I remained oblivious to all the red flags. And who wouldn’t?

How would my murder be explained? My real friends would never know it was him. Nor would my parents, or his parents. What would the excuse be? Or the accused? Would he make it look like a disappearance, or god forbid, a suicide? Not that, please. Of all things, don’t let it be that.

I was so tired. I knew I had to get free. But it would have to wait until I got some sleep.

No, no, no! 

I lost awareness at one point – only for a moment, I think – and came to in a fetal position with Rick crouched by me, getting a better look as I faded. My pain didn’t matter to him. My panic didn’t matter. Or maybe it did, just in the wrong way. He wouldn’t be swayed. He continued to stare with that fascinated gaze. He would do nothing until I was gone. It didn’t matter that I felt my heart strain to keep beating. He owned this moment. This whole situation.

I couldn’t do much now besides lay there and think of all the things I needed to do – sit up, stand, run away, get my phone, call 911, stop the bleeding – but it took so much energy, and I could barely support my own weight, even laying down. I couldn’t breathe. Existing took too much energy. I was trapped within myself, being torn between my body’s desire to fight and the desire to sleep.

And slowly, the desire for sleep won. By force. There was no deciding on my part, just as when he chose to swing the knife. I had never been out of control before in my life. I thought I had when we went on roller coasters, or the first time I climaxed with a lover. But those don’t compare to being robbed of your life. Those still give you the semblance of safety and choice, and they are fun. This was a nightmare. Here, I was truly helpless. And despite his words about love and anticipation, he had no care, no love, no regard for my existence. So he did whatever he wanted, no matter my preference or best interest. This is a situation we think we’ll never be in. Or think we’ve experienced our whole lives. But when it happens, like a slip on a tightrope, we know it, and we can’t mistake it for something else.

Despite my wishes, I drifted into eternal unconsciousness. As if in a dreamstate, I felt phantom fingers on my neck, feeling for a still pulse. I heard phantom laughter – a high pitched giggle of exaltation.

It was worse than the nothingness that followed.