Nighthawks- (based on the painting by Edward Hopper) part 2 This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

“And that’s pretty much all there is to it. It was us, four middle-aged men. Suddenly looking up to find ourselves standing alone at the side of the road. They had been kind enough to leave us an empty water bottle, an old tin can and some dirty garbage from god know’s where that was blowing along the road towards us. They were long gone, of course. It couldn’t have been a problem with that mighty Porsche four-wheeler they were spinning...a great car, if I’m honest with you. A lot of miles, four cylinders, an engine like a roaring animal-“
I stopped. Remembered. Backpedalled furiously. “Not that I know much about cars to tell the truth. Completely ignorant, I am. Hell, I’m sure you could find a woman cooking in the kitchen with more knowledge than me.” This time, an angry throat clearing from the red haired lady sitting beside me cut me off. I turned subtly and let my eyes skim over her face. Then her body. Cute. Very presentable. Shame about the hair, though, I’m a gentleman and I prefer them blonde. Turning back to the bar man, Finn, I can see the sudden spark of interest that ignited in his eyes at the mention of automobiles, manly things, has gone out. His tired grey irises are unfocussed, his pupils dilated, staring hazily into a space somewhere above my head. I almost wish I could join him there. There in the blank wonderful space, oblivion, away from this town where I constantly have to worry about what people think, away from this diner where it shouldn’t matter what people think, but it still does. The woman next to me for example; attractive enough. Serves the purpose of a woman well. I can see from her long fingers and chipped nail polish that she’s probably good in the kitchen. Has a husband waiting for her at home, no children. I can tell from her slim frame. Obedient, that’s important these days when women are starting to forget their place. I’m not judgemental, but I have been told I have a gift for noticing the small things that make someone who they are. The man across the bar; thin, hunched over, haggard. A dirty old hat shadows his face. His elbows splay out awkwardly on the bar top as he writes furiously in his journal. He pushes back strands of sandy hair as they fall in his eyes. No bag, a pencil and pen stick out of the breast pocket of his ill-fitting corduroy blazer. A failed author; this is clear to me. Or a poet, perhaps. Either way, I can tell that he ranks low in the social hierarchy of this town.
I like to think that I rank a little higher. Nathan Copeland. Nathan Copeland, son of George Copeland II and Jane Ericka Copeland. A famous family name. Respected. People know who I am. My father moved up here from the south, he came from nothing and built himself up to something. My mother was beautiful and intelligent; the youngest daughter of a British duke, my father immediately noticed her when he was over doing business in England. He had swept her off her feet; all the men wanted her, but she moved to the States before anyone could say a word. They got married after their two month anniversary and had me. I can barely remember much, but I think I had a very happy life as a kid. I always felt loved; looking back on it now, I can see that it’s a wonderful thing which I undervalued. They should have stopped at one baby. These can be the consequences of greed. A few years into my life, my mother got pregnant again and this time, something was wrong. I’m not sure, but I think I can vaguely remember a time when she was hugging me, holding me in her arms, when I felt a wet feeling spreading over my legs. I detached myself in time to see her face, white, as if she had seen a ghost, and her long pale fingers covered in shiny blood. My mother held her hands in front of her eyes; breathing so quietly I could hardly hear. The memory ends there. I just feel scared when I think about it, terrified. That must have been how I was feeling at the time.
The baby, my brother, was born dead. His brain wasn’t normal, there was a deformity that the technology at that time was not advanced enough to identify. I never saw him of course, but I was told later that he also had some physical problems. Extra fingers and toes. I know its stupid, but I have always held him responsible for my mother’s death.
My mother died in childbirth. I expect it must have been long and hard, but all I know is I never saw her come out of that hospital again. And for days, I waited for her to return home. Hell, I even made her bed for her and searched the cupboards to see if she was playing hide and seek. My father encouraged it; he told me to ‘keep looking’. I guess he had no better idea on how to deal with it. Sometimes he joined me in my crazy searches around the house, and I could swear he almost believed it just like I did.
Anyway, back to the present and out of my autobiography. I’m Nathan. Heck, I already said that, didn’t I? Oh well. I have been the CEO of Copeland Cars Inc. for about nine years now. Selling overpriced cars to rich people with money to burn. My father retired early and left everything to me, which was probably stupid considering I was only a naïve twenty-year-old man. After my mother’s death, he was never quite right in the head. I didn’t blow all the money immediately; well, I blew some, but it was on important things. A condo on the west coast, my Great Dane, Chucky, and other forms of entertainment. Gambling, extravagant parties and working the stock markets.
Before he lost all interest in the company, my father used to demand to see all the accountancy documents and expenses reports each month. He would go through them meticulously, annotating in his spidery red ink and highlighting errors, grammatical and a lot of spelling; I have always suffered from chronic dyslexia. I can remember one time we went slightly over budget. Try a few thousand over budget. Father went crazy; I smoothed it over by telling him that some deal had been stepped up and we were short-staffed. God, I could never have told him the real reason. We’ve never had a close relationship, and we only get further apart everyday.
The truth is, I had an addiction problem. Not drugs; No, no. I never went down that road. I’ve seen the effects they can have. Not alcohol either. I wouldn’t call that an addiction as such. It hard to tell without explaining the circumstances first: I was lonely. My father was only getting crazier; he could barely recognize me anymore, just sat alone in his room looking at photo albums and talking to himself, talking to the photos. Eventually, it became too much to handle so I moved out and spent a lot of money on a great town house for myself. At first I loved it. Parties every night, I could live how I wanted to again. But then I began to realize; at the end of every night, I was always alone. Then I began to feel lonely. It crept over me like the sneaking sensation of hunger dawns on you when you wake up in the morning. I had had relationships before; but I had always been a quiet kid. The popular girls seemed to like me though, and messed me around until I became too sensitive. Then they would ditch me. I have said ‘I love you’ to exactly five girls. Each time, it meant something to me. Those words are never easy to say. But my heart was broken and broken again until I didn’t think it would ever heal. I think there’s still a crack that runs through the middle, disguised but still there. Still deep. Still serving as a constant reminder of my inaptitude in the field of love.
I bought a dog. Chuck. This quenched my thirst, my loneliness, for a while. A year or so. I focused all my attention on him. But the thing is, a dog can never replace a person; I can talk to him, but he cant talk back. I missed that closeness that was only obtainable with another human. A woman. Hence, I started to pay for this closeness. I would drive up the downtown streets at night, working up the courage to stop and speak to a girl. They didn’t care who I was. They were just looking for work, looking for money. I quickly learnt this, and became a regular with several of the downtown women. I liked the older ones. This has always been inexplicable to me, but I guess maybe I had been missing a female presence in my life; not the presence of a girl, a child, a lover, but perhaps the presence of someone who I feel can help me. Can allow me to feel safe, can take care of me. Perhaps, in some weird perverted way, this was how I showed I was missing my mother.
Honestly, I would say I come to this diner almost every night. I went through a phase of paying for women excessively, I was barely ever alone. Even then, they most often opted not to stay the night, and so I ended up here anyway. Sitting with a cappuccino, extra foam, and talking to the bar man who clearly has no interest in hearing me speak. I can’t sleep. I lay there in my bed, staring at the ceiling, feeling first too hot, then too cold. I’ve tried pills. All kinds of medicine. Therapy. Nothing can help me. If I ever fall asleep, even for a brief second, I wake up sweating and screaming at the terror of my dreams. When awake, I lie thinking until my thoughts drive me insane. I come here to escape. Escape from myself.
Something I’ve never told any therapist, anyone, is that I have killed people. So many people. I’m a murderer, black-blooded, evil and cold. My father never told me the secret of his success before I inherited the company. The reason why he sold so many cars at such a great profit. He also never explained his angry phone calls, frequent and terrifying; I would hear him shout down the phone before slamming the receiver on the table. He never told me about his lawsuits. About how many times he and Copeland Cars Inc. had been sued for thousands of dollars and brought to court. He never explained why I heard him cry at night one time, why I saw him sit on a kitchen chair, his head in his hands, his fingers gripping his hair, his face twisted in sadness. I had to find all this out on my own.
My father played on America’s weakness for beautiful things; he bought crappy cars, assembled them from broken parts and tired motors. He then painted over them, shiny colors, red, blue, gold, green, and stuck the Copeland logo on the bonnet with pride: a centaur, standing triumphantly with a bow raised high. Of course, as the company grew, he employed others to do the dirty work and sign a lengthy contract. They never read it through properly.
On my first day as CEO, I began to receive the phone calls. I can so clearly remember the first one. How unsuspecting I was, drinking a glass of celebratory champagne, enjoying my new office, when the phone rang. It was a woman. She was hysterical, screaming and crying. I had to hold the phone away from my ear. All she was saying, over and over; ‘You killed her! You killed her! You killed my baby…” I slammed the phone down in shock, sure it was a wrong number. However, over the years, the calls have rolled in and it never gets less traumatizing. At first I was in denial, certain that there must have been some mistake. I have very little to do with the physical part of the company, the actual car building part. I solely deal with papers, look at numbers. I had no idea what could be going on under my very nose. I never spoke to my father about it; he’s too fragile. But I’ve seen the evidence stacked against me, been to court cases, seen the photographs…the photographs are what I remember at night. And the voices. That hysterical phone call and others like it play again and again in my head when I’m alone. Even when I’m not. They just start playing, and I try to talk over the words in my ears but it’s impossible. It’s like I’m haunted.
We must have the world’s best lawyers or something, because I always get out scot-free. I find it amazing that I can still walk down the street when even I can see the blood on my hands. The evil in my heart. At night, I have no escape. All day I surround myself with people, talk the loudest, drink the most. At night I am alone. Chuck can’t protect me. No one can protect me. I am being eaten from the inside. At night, I look up at the ceiling and I see their faces. I look at the wall and I hear their screams. I look at my face in the mirror and I see their dead eyes stare back at me. At night, I look down at my hands and I can see their blood, and I can feel my heart being crushed by my body, by my conscience.





Post a Comment

Be the first to comment on this article!

bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback