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He hated Mondays. Not the kind of hate that you and I feel, where you begrudgingly get out of bed saying how much you despise Mondays and by the time you’re out the door you’re actually psyched for the new day. I mean he really hated Mondays. He would do anything and everything he could think of to get out of them. Fake bouts of illness. Random non-reschedule-able doctor appointments. Sudden unexpected c0nversion to obscure religions with observed holy days. He disliked Mondays with a passion, which I guess is kind of ironic when you consider that this all started on a Friday.
Fridays, unlike Mondays, were his favorite day. He would bolt out of bed, get ready in five seconds flat, and be out the door like lightning. But something in him had snapped. For some reason, all he could see ahead of him was another miserable Monday.
It all started with a text message. I know, totally cliché, but sometimes life is just one big act anyways, right? So I get this text from him and at first it just seems like another one of the silly poems that he’s always sending me. I swear, the man sleeps, breathes, and thinks in rhyme. It’s absolutely ridiculous. Notebook margins, scraps of paper, coffee-stained napkins, heck, even the soles of his shoes and the walls of his bedroom. Nothing was safe from Steele’s words once they began to flow. But even though he was notorious for these random snippets of poetry, this one seemed different. It felt like he was torn, trying to tell me something while still keeping it hidden. All it said was:
One plus one equals two.
One is me and one is you.
Two minus one leaves only one.
Today’s the day the math will be done.
I don’t know if you read or write poetry, but the thing about a poem is that it’s like a window into a moment in time. Take Keats for example. You can sense that he knew that his time was running out. You can feel the urgency behind his message and it gives you insight into exactly how he felt in that moment. And it this moment, in this poem, there was something ominous and decided driving the words from Steele’s heart. There was something wrong, and I knew it.
The next several hours left without telling me where they were going. Like rebellious teenagers, they just left the house slamming the door behind them, no intention of telling me their plans, no forethought about what would happen next. I remember nothing between the moment I got his text and the moment I found myself at the door of his motel room. I don’t even know how I knew he was there. Call it a girlfriend’s intuition.
When I got to the room, I let out a little laugh. On the dirty paint-chipped door there were rusty, crooked numbers telling me that it was number 211. 2-1=1. Just like him. Always playing games.
But then, for some reason, my entire body began trembling. I could feel little beads of perspiration tracing their way down my back, almost like the fingertips of a ghost. I knew that something was wrong, but it still hadn’t hit me that it might be something so wrong that we would never be able to fix it. Heck, I thought he was just being his same reckless self, skipping school and renting a room for the weekend, hoping to maybe get lucky. He was always doing reckless stuff like that. I swear, he was the sweetest guy in the world, incredibly intelligent, but for such a smart person, he did the stupidest things. I couldn’t figure out why I was so nervous, but it only took a few seconds to solve that mystery.
I lifted my hand to knock, but before my knuckles could reach the door, it was opening, revealing a man that I had never seen before. It took me a second to realize that it was really was him, but still, this wasn’t the Steele that I knew.
The Steele that I knew had bright emerald eyes and a quirky smile that always signaled mischief. The Steele that I knew was constantly humming and singing and bouncing around, plotting his next act of destruction or shock.
The man standing before me looked like he hadn’t slept in days or weeks. His eyes were flat and dead and empty. His face was thin, skin stretched over muscle, cheekbones poking out from beneath.
For what seemed like hours I just searched his eyes, trying to find my Steele. I mean, I had seen him sad before, I had even seen him depressed, but never like this. I was wondering what could be so wrong when from the corner of my eye I saw him pull something dark and heavy-looking from his pocket.
What happened next was so sudden that all I remember are thick, rushing emotions, like the strokes of an artist’s brush on a virgin canvas. When he said goodbye I just stood there in confusion. “Where are you going,” I asked. “Where ever it is, I’ll go with you. I promise.” When I realized that what he had pulled out was a gun my mouth clamped shut and my heart raced into shock. When he put its nose to his head, my mind screamed ‘Do something!’ while my heart wondered ‘What the heck?’ and my body decided ‘Too much, I’m checking out’. Then, I was gone.
The next thing I knew, I was waking up and everything had changed. There was a body cloaked with a white sheet on the floor and yellow tape wrapped around everything and strange official-looking people wandering around, talking on cell phones. I didn’t understand what had happened at first. I guess that I didn’t really want to understand. Understanding meant that Steele was really gone, and that meant understanding that my life would never be the same again.
I didn’t know that it would end like it did. I didn’t know that everything we had worked for could be lost so easily. But it was. That’s how life works sometimes. You’re gliding along, thinking that everything’s okay, that every one’s okay and then all of the sudden you’re on the ground and you’ve shattered every bone in your body and you can’t see yourself ever being able to get up.
You know, Steele never was one for the future. He never planned more than ten seconds ahead, never considered how his actions might affect others. I don’t think that Steele thought his choice would lead to the one that I’m making now, but that doesn’t matter. I told him that I would go with him. I promised. And I always keep my promises.