The Randomness of 16

Kymmie Blanchette, now Kymberly Marshall had a life plan instilled in her by her parents which she followed to a T. She was a good kid, did well in school, had a core group of parent-approved friends, enjoyed spending time with her parents even as a teenager. She grew to be an outstanding adult, a high functioning, informed citizen who contributed positively to society and her parents’ careful planning led her down the predictable path of a solid career and a faithful marriage. She was a devoted mother to two children who also grew up to be successful in their respective fields.

But as her body became tender to the touch and the constant pain once relegated to the background pain stepped to the forefront and her body cooled and the pattern of her breathing began changing frequently and spontaneously—a delirium clouded her mind and she slipped down the corridor of her youth, back to her only bout of rebelliousness, back to the randomness of being 16.

A few days after her birthday, Kymmie made a friend all on her own, secret from her parents and other friends, secret from everyone. Insomnia—birth name Ines—was everything Kymmie never had the courage or confidence to be. She was what her grandfather would have called a spitfire, who always spoke her mind to teachers, her parents, everyone. She constantly went toe to toe with the abusive jocks and snarky queen bees without ever flinching or backing down and couldn’t care less about people’s opinions of her.

Why they became such close friends was anybody’s guess but they first met when Kymmie caught Insomnia secretly watching hentai in AV Club. Somni—her nickname of choice—cool as a cucumber said, “You got me dead to rights. Ball’s in your court so what’s it gonna be? Narc me out or become otaku?” Kymmie had no idea what otaku meant and she really wasn’t into animated tentacle pornography but this raven-haired edgy girl had given her something no one else had up to this point: a choice.

Kymmie became Somni’s sidekick, her partner in crime and together they tried all the challenges—the cinnamon challenge, the choking challenge, the salt and ice cube challenge, the fire challenge—they even hotwired a very large Oldsmobile in a Walmart parking lot and took it for a joyride with nary a driver’s license between the pair of them. And down by the abandoned factory they took turns surfing on the hood, roof and bumper of the car while the other drove. Kymmie did more driving than surfing but Somni gave her props for making an attempt.

One day they even raided Somni’s parents’ medicine cabinet for unused prescription pills, created a drug cocktail and washed it down with cooking wine and cough medicine in basement.

When they were properly buzzed, they began to talk, about themselves, about their feelings, about how lonely life can be sometimes, how hard it was to bridge gaps between the people you liked most in the world. People who weren’t blood related but were closer than family. And Somni, usually tight-lipped when it came to expressing emotions, opened up a little and shared her secret wish to be a vampire so she could exchange blood with another being and become one with that person.

Was it the drugs or the cooking wine that made Kymmie brush the hair away from her neck as she told Insomnia, “Ball’s in your court so what’s it gonna be? Whine about your loneliness or become one with me?”

“You’ve got no clue what you’re doing,” Somni said.

“Neither do you, which is why you had to get high in order to tell me how you feel about me.”

“Who said this is about you?”

“It’s not about me? Then why are we in your basement, Ines?”

“Don’t call me that!” Innsomnia snapped.

“Why not, it’s your name, isn’t it?”

“It’s my mother’s name!”

“No it’s not, your mom’s name is Brenda.”

“That’s my stepmother, bitch! My mother left to be with some asshat and his family because we weren’t enough! Because I wasn’t enough!”

“I-I’m sorry, I had no idea,” Kymmie said. “But you not being enough…that’s just crazy thinking. I don’t know her but if she abandoned you like that then your mom is the real asshat here.”

“Shut up.”

“No, and you can’t make me.”

“Wanna bet?”

“What are you going to do…hit me…beat me up? Go ahead, if that’s what it takes to get it out of your system. I’m not afraid of you.”

“Really? Why are you shaking, then?”

“Because you terrify me, not because I think you’ll beat me up because I don’t think you will, at least I hope you won’t. You’ve terrified me from the moment I first saw you.”

“Hey, I’m straight.”

“So am I, I think, but does that mean I can’t be in love with you? I mean, something’s there and I know you feel it, too,” Kymmie said. “Even if this doesn’t end well, we have to air it out before one or the both of us hurts ourselves by keeping it in.”

“What part of I’m straight don’t you get?”

“This isn’t about about sexual preference. Somni, so stop freaking out about labels, I mean you of all people, you should know better than that.”

“I just don’t want you getting any wrong impressions. You’re cool to hang out with and all but, you know, as a friend.”

“Oh my god, why are you so guarded right now? A minute ago you were spilling your guts to me…”

“Yeah, well, a minute ago I wasn’t under a lesbian microscope.”

“I’m not calling you a lesbian, we’re not doing labels, okay? I just want you to admit you feel a certain way so that I don’t feel like an absolute loser for feeling the same way.”

“What way do you feel?” Somni asked.

“Really? Are we doing the whole ‘No, you go first’ thing?”

“You started this.”

“No, you got all vampiry and wanted to suck my blood so you could feel closer to me!”

“Okay, psycho.”

“I’m the psycho? How about the person who doesn’t like to be touched always being so affectionate with me? You let me lay my head in your lap and stroke my hair when I need a nap. You sit on my lap and whisper secrets in my ear.”

“That was one time.”

“Okay, but you still did it!”

“Why don’t you just woman up and tell me how you feel, you drunk lesbian.”

“I’m not a…okay, so maybe I’m a little drunk, can you get drunk off of cooking wine? or high off the pills, what did we take again? anyway, I don’t know what I am because i i haven’t been with anybody yet but I’m not attracted to girls. It’s just you. Whenever you’re around, I just want you to notice me.”

“Of course, I notice you, doofus, we hang out all the time.”

“I think you’re my soulmate.”

“Okay. That wasn’t awkward.”

“Can you be soulmates with a same sex person? Does being a soulmate mean you have to be a sexmate, too?”

“Okay, we need to sober you up because it’s time for you to leave and I can’t send you home like and risk you narcing on me.”

“I’d never narc you out.”

“Not intentionally, maybe.”

“And why aren’t you as fucked up as me?”

“Not my first time at the rodeo,” Insomnia draped an arm across her shoulder and helped Kymmie to her feet. “Coffee time. Let’s go.”

“No,” Kymmie resisted.

“No?”

“I’m not going anywhere until you kiss me.”

“What?”

“You heard me. On the mouth. Right now. Let’s go. Take the leap. I dare you. What are you, chicken? Bwak! Bwark! I double dog dare you!” Kymmie continued to squawk like a drunken chicken.

“Keep this up and I’ll street you and let you find your own way home.”

The taunts came to a halt and for a moment Kymmie seemed to sober up, “Please. Somni, please. I have to know. It hurts so much. Show me you care. Make me feel wanted.”

What went on in Insomnia’s mind, Kymmie would never know but her friend relented and the two girls. kissed. It lasted only a few seconds before Kymmie broke the wet kiss and wiped her mouth, saying, “Uh-uh. No, no.”

“That’s what I’m been trying to tell you, asshat!”

“I’m not an asshat, your mom’s an asshat!” and what could have been an uncomfortable and awkward moment was broken by the two girls bursting into a fit of uncontrollable, uproarious laughter that was only interrupted by Kymmie throwing up the entire contents of her stomach.

“You are such a fucking mess,” Insomnia said as she pulled Kymmie hair back and led her to a small rusted metal trash pail. “But I love you.” The words were said it in a soft voice that was hard to make out over the din of her own retching but Kymmie heard them clear as day.

They remained friends after that, never discussing the basement conversation again and continued doing stupid random teenage things that should have led to one or both of their deaths several times over but sometimes God watched over idiotic teenagers so they managed to pull through unscathed. Then, near the end of the year, Insomnia’s parents were forced to move because of the scarcity of job opportunities and the girls tried keeping in touch but long distance relationships required an attention that adult life seldomly permitted.

Kymberly chuckled at the memory which appeared more as a rasping cough to those sitting bedside and as the end approached, she whispered “Goodbye” and her family thought it was meant for them but she was actually saying farewell to her old friend.

©2020 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Alice: Reflections of a Looking Glass Friendship

behind the glass

“Of course it hurt that we could never love each other in a physical way. We would have been far more happy if we had. But that was like the tides, the change of seasons–something immutable, an immovable destiny we could never alter. No matter how cleverly we might shelter it, our delicate friendship wasn’t going to last forever. We were bound to reach a dead end. That was painfully clear.” ― Haruki Murakami, Sputnik Sweetheart

They say you meet friends in the damnedest places when you aren’t looking for them and I thought this was utter nonsense until the day I found a friend in the reflection of a mirror. I know what you’re and no, this isn’t a story about finally finding and befriending myself or coming into contact with the Supreme Intelligence that exists within me, because it wasn’t my reflection. This person, this woman who had no name, that I called Alice, stood beside the mirror version of myself, to the left. Always left of center. I should have taken that as a sign, but you never see the glaringly obvious without the benefit of hindsight, do you?

Before you mistake Alice for an imaginary friend, know that were I in a mirrorless room, I wouldn’t be able to communicate with her because she simply wouldn’t be there.

How she came to be trapped within mirrors is anyone’s guess and I doubt she truly knew herself, though whenever asked, she would always blame her fractured memory, splintered like the shards of glass of a shattered mirror that held incomplete images of her past.

She was fascinating in her way, Alice was. A brain filled with dark matter. Insecure to a fault. A high maintenance friend if ever there was one. Not only was she needy, self-absorbed to the exclusion of all else, devoid of a funny bonedespite the fact she claimed to have an excellent sense of humorbut she was also passive-aggressive and more than slightly obtuse when it came to the rules of the world that existed outside her own head. But as I said, fascinating in her own right.

It’s a shame that fascination wasn’t enough to carry through. I was determined in the beginning to plant our relationship in the soil of time, water it with patience and let it bask in the rays of understanding.

What sprang from the dirt wasn’t the flower of friendship, but the weeds of unwanted advice. It’s what broken people do, you see, they have an undying need to give others advice on how to fix themselves. I am by no stretch of the imagination a Bible scholar, but I am familiar with the passage:

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”

But I endured it. You ask me why? I couldn’t tell you. That’s what friends are for, I reckon. But then I started to notice that her reflection was dwarfing my own. She began taking up the majority space in the mirror, and I, trying to keep the peace had ignored the signs and allowed it to happen. My own fault, I plainly admit it.

But no more.

As I grow older, reluctantly wiser, and I reevaluate my life choices and take stock of my friends, I see with regard to the Alice matter that I will never get a decent return on my investment. Some people are a bad fit within their own skin as well as with other people.

Not long after, I noticed she wasn’t simply trapped within a mirror. Alice was actually trapped in a glass box of her own construction, caught within a mirror pocket dimension. And to add insult to injury, she was attempting to trap my reflection, and thereby me, inside one as well.

In the end, I did the only thing I could do, for she gave me no other choice. I placed her reflection in the only fitting place I could think of — my rear view mirror. The very last time I ever laid eyes on Alice, she was shrinking in the distance until she was little more than a dot on the horizon.

My sincerest wishes for her are to find her way out of her glass cage and strive to be more than a visual echo in the reflectors of others. But that first step begins with her. She has to want to be a real person, and I’m not sure she knows how.

In any event, adieu, Looking Glass Girl. Here’s not looking at you, kiddo.

The rest of you, go forth and be reflectively writeful (and be mindful of mirror-lurkers).

– Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

A Friend

She had the nerve to ask me, “Just who do you think you are?” and my temper spiked. Zero to sixty, I got hotter than the hinges on the gates of Hell, and I was fixing to tell her just who I thought I was.

I was going to tell her I’m the person she wants to have near when she’s dying, and whom she likes to be with while she’s alive. The certain someone she can spontaneously turn to for help when she’s in trouble, and who’s the first to hear the good news when she has good fortune.

The guy whose counsel she seeks when she’s perplexed and my congratulations when the perplexity is solved. The person in whom she can confide the secrets she wants no other living soul to know, and yet will never pry into her heart to discover whether there are any more secrets to be revealed.

The pillar on which she can lean when her heart aches, but who will never complain or take advantage of her leaning. Someone who will get down on my knees beside her when she’s down, and forget that I did so when she’s on her feet again.

The shoulder she can weep on when she’s sad and with whom she enjoys laughing when she’s glad. Always there with a tear on my cheek when she suffers and a twinkle in my eye when the sun shines on her again. Also, I’m the one with pain in my voice when she’s in distress and melody in my tone when her heart is happy.

Besides her family, I’m the one who admires her for her strong points and loves her in spite of her weak ones. I can laugh at her foibles without despising her for having them as well as make allowances for her limitations without allowing them to obscure her talents.

I’m that fella who’s proud of her when fortune favors her but not ashamed of her when she fails. I will contribute to her success without claiming any share in it. I feel and show satisfaction when she pleases me but never resentment when she disappoints me.

The stand-up guy that tells her the truth even when it hurts and without her taking offense. And yes, I am not ashamed to grant her a favor even at the risk of being imposed upon and can extend a helping hand to lighten her load without expecting any other reward than having had the privilege of so doing.

I give all I can whenever I can without ever keeping a record of what I have given and who says the best about her when everybody else is saying the worst.

I want to say all this and make her feel it, make her understand, but the anger passes and all I say is, “I am your friend,” and it’s all that’s needed to be said because it encompasses everything.

-Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys