Rain battered against the windows of Carl’s apartment, as it had for several hours. The wind was doing its fair share of rattling and knocking as well. Carl was sitting in his favorite chair next to his largest bookshelf. He wasn’t reading. In fact, Carl wasn’t doing anything at all except for staring at the window in front of him as it was attacked by whatever weather-wielding goddess he’d managed to piss off.
His phone began to hum and scream for his attention from somewhere near his desk that was standing in the other end of Carl’s one-room apartment. He dealt with the situation the same way he dealt with all of his problems of late, he flat out ignored them.
“I’ve felt the way before,” he sighed addressing the empty room. “My soul is being crushed under the weight of this hole in my chest, black hole style, gravity and all that shit.”
Carl was not the kind of man to talk to himself, at least not in public. He did, however do so when he was depressed. “At the end of whatever this is, I’m going to end up dying as a lonely old man the world will have forgotten in a blink. No, no, you’re young, live your life, they say. No one ever mentions how. I don’t know how.”
The truth of the matter was that Carl was actually well-liked. There were plenty of people around him who thought well of him and even called him their friend. Sadly, Carl had a walled-in heart, more of a beating rock pumping gravel through his body, standing in stark contrast to the open and trusting aspect of his persona. Carl was in many ways a man chiseled from stone. That was what he believed himself at least, but Carl had always been a blind and bitter fool when it came to himself.
“I’ve burned so many bridges in my life,” Carl said and clenched his hands into fists. “From the rubble I took the stones I could and with them I built this ivory tower in which I have imprisoned my soul. The silence is haunting.”
His phone stopped ringing but Carl barely noticed that. He was too busy feeling sorry for himself. That’s why he didn’t acknowledge his desperate phone as it yet again tried to reach out to him. To Carl, it’s constant ringing had become background noise.
“I locked myself in this box and now I can’t get out. I’m alone, as I always have been. As I always w-” whatever Carl had been about to say was interrupted by frantic banging on the door to his apartment.
“Carl, open up. This isn’t funny anymore. Open the damn door! I know you’re in there!”
Carl stared at the door for thirty seconds, face blank and eyebrows arched, before he slowly got up from his chair and went over to be door. Opening it revealed a soaked Jessica.
“I’ve been calling you for two hours.” Carl knew he was in trouble when she used that level and controlled tone. A single wrong step and she’d explode on him like a land mine. “Talk to me.”
Oh how Carl hated hearing those three words. He’d had nightmares about talk to me many times. “I don’t know what to say,” he managed after a minute of painful silence.
“Then shut up and listen. We’re worried, Carl. You haven’t left this apartment in over a month and no, going to pick up groceries doesn’t count. You’re scaring me, Carl. This isn’t you.”
“What if it is?”
“Don’t, just don’t. I’ll drag you out of that shell with my bare hands if I have to.”
Carl looked at her as she stood trembling before him and wondered how something that looked so frail could be so much stronger the he was. Cracks began to appear in the wall of stone Carl had built.
“Why are you doing this, Jess? Why are you trying to save someone like me?”
“Isn’t obvious you dumb-ass?” She yelled at him. Carl had stepped on the mine, he just knew it. Then again, he was wrong. Tears began to trickle down Jessica’s cheeks. They were few and subtle but they were there. “Because I love you, Carl. Because I’m in love with you.”
The tower Carl had built crumbled and fell into ruin. As the dust settled and cleared from his heart he felt something he had never felt before. That he wasn’t alone.