This piece is unpublished until now, and was originally written in 2012, using the “sticks” from The Writer’s Toolbox by Jamie Cat Callan for the “First Sentence” and two non-sequiturs. These are marked in bold. I also did one stick for “The Last Straw” which is supposed to introduce a dramatic arc, but it said “the hole in his sock” and though I could have wedged that in somewhere, I already had a dramatic arc that I liked and I almost hated “hole in his sock.”
I won’t sing the praises of such gimmicks to induce creativity, but on this occasion, I had nothing to write about and it gave me something to write about. I hope you like it. – ML
Gustav sat down in the middle of the road and began to cry. It wasn’t an unusual thing for him to do, not if you knew Gustav. “Emotional and poorly equipped for the stresses of secular challenges” was how his last employer described him. While that might sound particularly harsh, what pained Gustav most was that it was true. Mostly.
Girls cry and the world rallies around, consoling and empathizing about… whatever. A man cries, and the world judges him. He’s weak. He can’t cope. He’s a Susie Sissy-Pants. So be it, Gustav sobbed. He’s had happier times.
Seven months ago, we were drinking champagne and losing our shirts in Vegas. Gustav wasn’t a big drinker, so by the time we cracked open the second bottle, he was blitzed. The blackjack table wasn’t kind to us, but we didn’t care. It was our honeymoon, and we were in love. We left Vegas the next day before we were completely broke.
The plane was two hours late taking off. Sitting on the tarmac and baking in the desert sun, Gustav’s hangover got the worst of him. Even though we weren’t in flight, they wouldn’t let him get up and go to the restroom, so he had to throw up in one of those little puke bags they stick in the seatbacks. Still, it was a happier time for him than now.
Gustav misses me. When he turns on American Idol, he gets this vacant look. He always had a vacant look when watching American Idol. You know, he hated that show, but he watched it because I liked it and he wanted to be with me. Now that I’m gone, he still watches it, so that’s how I know he misses me.
I’ll never forget the panic in his face. His unblinking eyes wide as the distance grew between us; hand reaching out, his mouth gaping as I fell. I saw my reflection on the glass building, falling in tandem as I slid down, down, down to the pavement. I think the horror of that moment shorted out something in Gustav. He was never the same after that, prone to emotional outbursts and, often, tears.
It’s been almost seven months now, and the pull of the light is strong. Soon, I will have to leave Gustav. It’s not like I can help him, but I think he knows I am near and somehow is comforted by it. Maybe just a little. Maybe I don’t help at all, and what he needs is to move on. I could be holding him back. I probably am.
Time and distance will grow and blur the memory of me and that fatal moment you tripped, falling forward, knocking me over the balcony. You never could hold your champagne.
I am cold here, and the light is so warm. It’s time to forge on without me, my dear Gustav. Soon, but not yet. Very soon, but I am not ready to leave you, my dear wonderful, clumsy husband. Now, get out of the road before you get run over.
© 2012, 2021 Mitch Lavender
3 thoughts on “The Sorrow (short story)”
Loved this, Mitch.
It had me wondering right to the end.
It is a thought I often have. If we grieve too much are we holding a loved one’s spirit earthbound?
When is it time to let go?
Does letting go mean not caring? Does memory keep them alive somehow, somewhere?
We can’t know.
Oh, Kate, I have struggled with my grief and have no answers, either. I do believe that the way someone lives on is in the memories of those who loved them, and I think the best way we remember them is to do so with joy, not sadness. Easier said than done, I know.
We can but try, Mitch.
Life is a gift & we have to find joy in small things.
Looking back? My forte. Alas.