PART TWO of Contain My Crazy (click here to read PART ONE)
I rubbed my shoes against the concrete before I ran right back to join him.
"What was that?" He asked with a curious expression on his face. Yeah, the guy had already seen me embarrass myself enough times in the last few minutes and then, here I go being more of a weirdo. I guess, I did have to explain myself.
"Don't laugh, okay?" I pleaded with him. I could see him holding back his laughter already, but I squinted my eyes at him making him see that I am serious.
"Fine. Fine. I won’t. Why'd you just run off to a corner and wipe your shoes on the sidewalk?" He asked.
"It's nothing weird. I swear, I didn't step on animal poop or anything, or did I?" I suddenly tried to recall if I did so from my walk from the bus all the way home. Was it possible? I mean, it was late already and maybe it stepped on something I didn't see?
"No. No. I didn't." I said, trying to sound sure, but probably ended up looking guilty. Daniel was nodding his head, but I can see him trying to keep his mouth tight shut.
I started walking, one step after and the other and he followed along, matching my pace. "It's more like a force of habit. I don't know. I always did it since I was a kid. Before I went on walks or went off into the world, I wiped my feet on concrete."
"Really? That's fascinating. How old were you when you started doing that?" He asked me.
"Around eleven years old, I think? When I stepped out of our old house, there wasn't a path from our door to the street. We had to step on fresh soil. Most of the time, it was wet from the rain or my mother's excessive watering. I needed to rub the soil out of my shoes on the concrete when I get to the sidewalk. But yeah even when I moved here in the city, I still kind of do it" I stopped for a while. I've never told this to anyone and now that I am saying it out loud, it makes absolutely no sense to still be doing it here where there were barely even any trees in sight.
"Well, I guess I still do it now to get ready for the battle, to face the day? Like, I'm warming myself up, or getting ready for something? Weird, right?" I asked. Yeah, maybe I should probably stop doing that now that I'm a full grown working adult.
"No, I don't think it's weird. I think it's kind of nice. Like, you're revving up your engine for the drive ahead?" Yeah. He seemed to put it in better words than I did.
"Yeah, kind of like that." I said. I looked down and focused on each step we make. I didn't know what to say. I didn't really expect the night to go this way. I didn't foresee being locked out of my own house only to find the complete stranger I sat in the bus next to, invite me on a late night walk.
"Oh right. Haha. If I gave you a million bucks, would you go down to the sewers to get your keys back?" He asked me. That took me by surprise. Would a reasonable person even do that, even with all the money in the world?
"Tempting offer. I should probably say "yes". Who doesn't need a million bucks right now, right? One thing though, I am deeply afraid of rats. I feel like they would eat my face off" I replied.
"I think they're more afraid of you than you are of them. I mean they can be quite cute, you know?" He pulled up a video from his phone and shows it to me. The first image was a shot of a big black fat rat sniffing right at the camera. It was super unsettling and caught me off guard.
"Duuuude" I said as I immediately pushed his phone off of his hands to stop the video from playing. He caught it before it fell on the ground.
"You should really stop throwing stuff on the streets, you know?" He said. Yeah, I probably got that from all the late 90's cartoons where the characters basically threw stuff out of their bags into the air without considering if the danger of falling debris. Gosh, I'm a nerd.
"Sorry. Sorry. I'm sorry" I'm embarrassed again.
"How many "Sorry's" was that? Once is enough. Okay?"
"Sorry. Oops" I covered my mouth, noticing my mistake.
"Is it okay if we continue watching? They aren't so bad, you'll see?" He said.
"Alright" I said, taking a closer look down his phone. I didn't know why I trusted him or why I was letting him show me a video of big fat rats, but it wasn't like I have anything better to do?
It was a Youtube video of this goofy creator, Garret Watts who baked a cake for a random rat he encountered one time at a sidewalk. He left the cake in the middle of his backyard for the rat and he set a video camera to film it. Then, he left for an entire week. When he came back, the cake was completely gone. Watching the video back though, he found out that the rat didn't even get much of the cake. A stray raccoon ate much of it, and by end, a skunk showed up to the party. It was a pretty funny video and completely out of nowhere.
"See, this guy doesn’t think of rats are scary. They can be quite adorable if you get used to one, or have one as a pet or something." He put his phone back in his pocket.
"You make a good point." I may be starting to see these animals in a different light, but I'd definitely still shriek at a sight of one nearby.
"So should we go?" He asked.
"Go where?" I wondered.
"Find a manhole so we can go down there" He pointed to one of the sewer grates we passed by where my keys probably fell earlier.
"And besides, sewer rats are our friends, so there's nothing to be worried about!" He quickly added, gesturing for me to come along.
"Do you even have a million bucks?" I was suddenly curious since he was taking this so seriously.
"Nah, but come on! There's nothing else to do this late at night. Let's have scavenger hunt." He seemed to be excited about the idea and who am I to say no to that?
"Alright. Let's go. What exactly is the plan?" I asked. Maybe this guy knows what he's doing and there's no harm in playing along, right?
"Just keep on the look-out for any manholes on the ground." He traced a big circle with his index fingers.
"And then, maybe we can enter through there and go underground to that particular grate in front of your house." Already, I was seeing flaws in his plan. I wasn't not even sure if I'm willing to go down there at all. But even to my own surprise, I was actually up for it!
"Alright." I said, shifting into an on-a-mission mode.
It was deeper in to the night and there weren't much light being given off by lamp posts. We possibly passed by a bunch of manholes already, and we didn't even notice. We kept on walking though, not really sure where we're going, but just carrying one foot and the other.
"Can I ask a question?" This was dangerous, following a guy in the middle of the night. Even if I didn't give off any weird vibes, I still had a few worries lurking at the back of my head. I needed to at least have an idea why he was in front of my locked gate when I came home from work. I've never seen him here before.
"Sure, go ahead" He answered.
"Why were you outside our gate tonight? I haven't seen you around our neighborhood before. Not that I'm here often, just at night after work." I went straight into it.
He took a while to answer. His eyes were focused on the ground looking for circular metal plates, walking slowly.
"Have you ever felt so lost?" He said suddenly stopping. His head lifted up from the ground and looked me right in the eyes with what I saw was anger, betrayal and sadness at the same time. I felt like I saw too much so I looked right back to the ground.
"Oh, that actually makes more sense. What happened? Did you travel all the way here, but actually got the wrong address? There's something called Google maps, you know? You can also use it while walking." Maybe, he wasn't a serial killer after all. The poor guy just didn't know his way around the city.
"I mean lost, like I don't know what to do anymore. I feel so used up." He sighed.
"Used up? Did somebody use you? Why? What did they use you for? Your money? Your body? Oh god, what did they do to you? Are you alright? Do you want me to help you report them? I don't know anything about law and stuff, but maybe we can report them to the police? Some evidence will also help. Maybe I can serve a witness? We can get them locked up!" My mind was suddenly racing. This guy was a victim of a crime and it was up to me to save him, to put things to justice.
"Hahahaha" He suddenly showed me the most goofy smile. He put his arm around my shoulder and walked big steps, pushing me along to follow. Surprised, I immediately widened my foot steps to give us a little distance.
"It's nothing like that. I'm just a bit confused right now and I'm not exactly sure how to explain it." He sighed, looked to the ground again. I knew I shouldn't pry. I only met the guy tonight. Why would he trust a stranger like me?
"That's alright. You don't have to tell me if you're uncomfortable. I have always found it a relief to get your thoughts out though. You might not get any actual answers. But hey, at least they're outta your head". I gestured picking a memory out of his head from where I was standing and tossing it to one of the garbage bins we passed by.
"And besides, I'm a stranger. I don't know enough of your life so I can be totally unbiased. Up to you" I added.
After a few minutes of silence and just walking, he answered.
"I made a stupid mistake and now, it's not even worth it." He sounded like it was such a struggle to get his words out.
"What do you mean?" I tried not to sound too intrigued.
"My boyfriend lived in your apartment complex and when I got there, he wasn't answering his phone anymore. He wasn't there. I was too late. I gave everything up for the person and now he's just gone. He left me behind when I'm about to choose him over everything, everything that was here, everything that I worked so hard for. What am I supposed to do?" He stopped. He looked desperately into my eyes looking for answer, his thick bushy brows furrowed like a sad abandoned puppy.
"Now, I just feel like I'm left with nothing." It's a fresh wound, raw and still bleeding. Pain, that's what I saw when I caught him gripping the railings of our silver gate. I thought he was angry, but maybe he was just hurting so much at that moment and he tried so hard to keep it in.
"Uhm. Yeeeaaah. First of all, that is stupid." I said and he looked at me with a confused expression, like he can't even believe what I'm saying to him right now. I didn't even know why I said that. I should probably just shut up.
"You don't understand. I've been with the guy for years now and I love him. Of course I love him, but he made me choose between him and my career. He was supposed to fly for the province tomorrow. He was gonna take over his family's business and he asked me to come with him. He was gonna take care of me. I didn't have to do a thing, just come with him. It was my fault. I took too long to decide. I guess, he left early." He sounded defeated, like this was the first time that the news was finally sinking in. I felt for the guy. I've never been in his shoes before to know, to have someone that you loved so much to be willing to give everything up for.
"Will you be happy?" I asked and that kind of took him out of his train of thought and back to the present.
"Will you be happy?" I repeated. "If let's say you did choose him and gave up your job. If you tossed aside everything you’re proven to yourself just to be with him, will you be happy?" I was challenging him. I didn't know why I'm doing this. I was deliberately pressing salt into his fresh wound. He's probably so confused already and here I was making it worse.
"Yes, of course I will!" He seemed offended that I would suggest otherwise. Well, I just turned a nice and friendly guy into a sworn enemy. Why didn't I have more of a filter?
"And then, why did you take so long to decide? You had doubts, didn't you? I personally think it is right that he left early. I don't know the guy, but I think it's the best decision for you." What was I even trying to prove, here? I just knew that he would have regretted it more if he chose the guy. Maybe not first, but eventually, even for the rest of their lives.
"You're cruel, you know that?" He hissed at me, before getting all quiet again. He wasn't moving anymore. He just pressed his back against the door of a parked car. I stood next to him after a few quiet minutes. I didn't know what to do. I wanted to say "Sorry", but I remembered what he said earlier to stop saying "Sorry" so I just tried to keep my mouth shut. Maybe, I should just kept quiet. Why did I even have to speak?
I couldn't keep still though. I opened my mouth and tried to say my words slowly this time.
"Sorry. But, if you want to move on with your life, you have to prioritize yourself from now on. It was selfish of him to make you choose in the first place. You can't give everything you love, just to be with the person. You might be with him, but trust me you'll grow to hate him for everything that you gave up" I tried to explain myself to him. I didn't want him to think that I was attacking him. He's a good guy and he certainly didn't deserve what happened. He just had to get through this, on his own.
"How can you be so calm and brutally attack me like this?" He seemed to have given up and just slid all the way to the ground. I sat down next to him, feeling a bit guilty for not stopping myself. Yup, I have gone too far. Yikes.
"You know, I've been alone all of my life and I've gotten so used to it already. The silence, the emptiness and knowing that if the day actually comes that I finally die, no one will even care. No one will remember me for anything. Will I even be considered to have lived a life?" I wasn't sure where I was going with this.
"So what are you telling me? To be like you? To be alone and miserable for the rest of my life?" Those words kind of stung and I deserved it. I needed to shake it off though. This wasn't about me.
"No, you're not like that. You're different. What I'm trying to say is, you will be fine by yourself. You're gonna hurt at first, but it will just take a bit of time. You'll be fine again. Maybe, you need this to realize that you're worth so much than being arm candy to a person"
"Arm candy?" He raised his eyebrow. Was he suddenly smirking at me?
"You're your own person. If someone really loved you, they won't forget that you have your own dreams, your own identity?" I continued.
"Do you know you who are, what your purpose is in life?" He asked. He seemed to be calmer now. I wasrelieved that he isn't furious at me anymore.
"That's not really a simple question, but yeah I kind of do. Even if I die tomorrow, at least I'll know that my time here counted." I explained to him.
It took him a while to answer. I guess he was trying to make sense of the words I said. I'm not even sure myself if they did.
"Maybe, you're right. I love what I'm doing right now. I will get to help a lot of people. I feel like slowly, I'm starting get closer and closer to fulfilling my purpose. I've done so much. I have so much more I want to do, and to prove. And it is all, right here in the city". There was still doubt in his words. You could see how he was trying to convince himself that it was going to be alright.
"If you didn't leave him and just agreed to what he wanted, wouldn't you always be asking yourself "What If?" I let him ponder for a couple more minutes.
"Yeah. If he really loved me, he should have understood." He was angry now, but I could see how he was trying to push it down with deep slow breaths.
"Hey, you can do this". I told him and he looked up at me like he wanted to hold onto my words. He wanted to believe it for himself.
"Yeah, I'm sure I can" He spoke softy. Then, he finally gave me a smile. He still seemed unsure and I don't blame him. He'll have to come back to his life like nothing has changed, even when deep inside he'll still be breaking. Will all the time in the world even help him heal and move on?
"I'm gonna be the greatest macho dancer in the world!" He rubbed his eyes and suddenly stood up with a burst of energy.
"Yes, you will be!" I chimed in and stood up as well. He needed support right now and I'd be happy to cheer him on. "Wait, what?," I only now got what he was said.
"Kidding" He said laughing, seeing the shock and confusion on my face.
"I only do that on special occasions for special people" He winked at me, or did he? I'm not sure, but I looked away to try and hide how flustered I suddenly was.
"Anyways, whatever your dream is, I have no doubt that you can catch them all!" I said, mumbling my words. What the hell? That was a weird reply and he seemed to be enjoying the awkward silence. I had to speak now.
"And you know, it's totally worth it. I may not get a million bucks even if I work every day for the rest of my life, but knowing that I am happy doing what I love is enough." I added, just to provide a little bit of comfort. I was still sorry I put the guy through that.
"That's too bad, because this may actually be your chance." He pointed to the manhole at the far corner of the street. My eyes sharpened, seeing it for the first time. I guess we're still doing that then?
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Disclaimer : This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.