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Andrew let out a sigh and knocked on the simple door in front of him.
He knocked again, just a little louder.
Once again, nothing.
Unsurprising, Andrew thought. Jack’s mother earlier said the stereo had been on full blast since late last night.
He knocked once more, with his whole fist this time, and opened the door.
The room looked about as he suspected. Shades (forced shut with packing tape) kept the daylight out and bathed the room in a pale blue light. The ceiling fan spun in slow, lazy circles. The sheets were pulled off the bed, wrapped around what was clearly a corpse. Andrew stepped over the cadaver to get to the stereo. The music selection wasn’t helping the mood. Overly sentimental and shallow, probably Jack’s Mannequin. Nope, Andrew thought while picking up the CD case. Dashboard Confessional. Much, much worse.
Andrew turned down the music and faced the corpse.
“Jack,” He said loudly, to no response.
“JACK!” Andrew shouted this time. This was getting old. “Get UP you idiot,” he said punctuating his words with the gentlest kick to Jack’s shoulder he could manage. Jack woke with a start, and pulled himself into a sitting position. Now, granted a full view of Jack, Andrew couldn’t help but grimace.
Jack had the proud glow of someone who falls asleep in a puddle of his own tears. His hair lay greasy and matted to one side, a small body of mucus had solidified to the side of his face, and a horrible smell permeated the room that Andrew could not quite place.
“Hey buddy!” Andrew said with a wave, trying not to lean too close. “How you feeling?” Jack stared back with the wild, blank eyes of his Lord of the Flies namesake. Andrew could not tell if Jack saw him at all.
“Jack man, come on, this is starting to get ridiculous, stand up.” Andrew hoisted Jack onto his feet to get a better look at him. Jack was wearing his BHS hoodie and... nothing else. “Really? Not even boxers? Come on!” With his eyes fixed firmly on the ceiling fan, Andrew tied the bed sheet around Jack into a sort of make-shift kilt. An empty pizza box clattered out of the sheet in the process. Andrew sat Jack down on the bed, taking a moment to wipe the now congealed body fluids off of Jack’s face.
Andrew began, “Alright, so let’s talk. It’s been a couple days since you and Georgia...” Jack’s sad, sad puppy dog eyes began welling up with tears, “since you and Georgia split.”
Jack opened his mouth to speak, and delivered the following brilliant oration, “Unnnngh-huh-uh-huh.” His voice cracked under the pressure to sob.
“Shhhh... Alright, alright. Just let that all out.”
“Are you trying to talk or...?”
“Nuhuhgyuaa.” Jack moaned and fell backwards on the bed.
“Jack. This is literally the most pathetic display I have seen with my young, virginal eyes. You smell like a Chicken Express dumpster.” Unbeknownst to Andrew, this was an eerily accurate approximation of why his friend smelled that way.
“You don’t understaaa-han-han-hannnnddd.” On top of the crying, Jack seemed to be slurring his words. It might have been because he had fallen asleep with his face on the hardwood floors, it might have been alcohol, but it was probably both.
“Don’t understand what? That break-ups hurt?”
“Not, hic, just, hic, break-ups. Love is nothing but pain, hic. Relationships can only end in heartbreak or death. Uhuyng-hun-hunnn.” Jack began to sob again.
“Will you get a grip for God’s sake? You sound like a dolphin getting a colonoscopy.” Jack made several more hiccup like sounds before catching his breath.
“Now you can’t sit around moping forever, man. You’ll find another girl.”
Jack sniffed again, “But why? What’s the point? It’s just asking for more, hic, for more, hic, heartache, unh huh hunh hunh...” And it was back to tears for Jack.
“You’re right.” Andrew said, and this silenced Jack abruptly. “You are completely right.”
“What?” Jack looked really puzzled.
“You hit the nail on the head. Every person you ever grow close to will hurt you. Without exception.”
Andrew took a deep breath, “And that’s just the way we live. I hate to use the word love, but love means is opening up and allowing yourself be vulnerable. So yes, Georgia hurt you. And the next girl will hurt you, and the girl after that. People are thoughtless, careless, and can never truly understand each other. So bad things happen, even between two good people who care about each other.” Andrew let his gaze wander from Jack. Jack just sat motionless.
“Everyone you grow close to will hurt you, the trick is finding the people who are worth the pain.”
At this Jack huffed and dropped his gaze, most likely feeling the weight that comes with the realization that he was pantsless, covered in Saliva. listening to the dulcet sounds of acoustic-emo.
“I mean look at you and me, when I walked into this room I had the faint sense that someone had recently peed on themselves. And nothing I’ve seen or heard since has given me to a reason to think differently. So I’m here suffering the fact that your body clearly hasn’t touched warm water in at least three days,” Jack sank a little bit deeper into the mattress. “And yet I stay because you’re my best friend and you need me. I care about you man.”
Jack was getting misty-eyed for a whole new reason. “Maybe I over-reacted a bit.”
“Yeah. You only dated her like, thirteen days.”
“I know man, three weeks of my life just gone,” Jack replied. Andrew gave a hearty chuckle. Jack seemed puzzled by Andrew’s laughter, and his eye betrayed all the sincerity of a four-year-old’s letter to Santa.
“Right, well... the guys were going to the game tonight if you’re interested.”
“Yeah, for sure. Maybe I should clean up first.”
“Hmm. Maybe.” For the first time that day, they laughed together.
Andrew rose to leave, and turned when he reached the door, “Hey man, you ever want to talk, it’s no trouble.”
“I know bro, see you tonight.” Jack said. Andrew gave a last encouraging grin before stepping into the hallway. Shutting the simple door behind him his smile widened with satisfaction of his good deed.
Meanwhile, Jack rummaged in his hoodie for a wrinkled polaroid he had cradled last night. Finding the snapshot, he brought it closer to his face with a sigh. Georgia and him on a ferris wheel. He indulged a long sigh before heading to the bathroom where he splashed water on his face, donned pants, and prepared himself for the upcoming night out with friends.
The snapshot he left in the bathroom waste-basket.