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The lock clicked from down the hall, signaling to Jude that it was Monday and his girlfriend was back from her trip. He’d been sky-high on edibles for the past four days and once again destroyed the place in the process. He cursed himself silently for not setting an alarm or something, knowing how hard it was to keep track of time when she wasn’t around.
He tried to sweep the ashes off the countertop in front of him, but the moisture from his hands turned it into a terrible smear. Fate told him it was too late to put in last-ditch efforts, so he just turned off the TV and sat there. When Julie stepped in, the only sound was her keys jangling between her fingers. She closed her eyes, the smell of funky man-BO mixed with cannabis hitting her, and let her duffel hit the floor. “Jude. You’ve gotta be fricken kidding me.” Her eyes were still closed, but she was vibrating with rage and frustration. Jude could see it. It was very familiar.
I went to the corner, behind two empty takeout bags and next to the laundry basket, and covered my ears and face and body while she screamed at him. All the words piercing through his skin and bones. And Jude sat, defenseless in the shame of knowing that every word was true. Plus, he was still sky high.
Every two weeks, like literal clock work, Julie went home to see her family and take her dad to his chemo appointments. Jude remained and lived alone in their shared apartment for four to five days, sometimes a week. And the place would inevitably become a den of disgustingness and Jude would be outrageously zooted. Then Julie would come back, emotionally and physically exhausted from her trip, and scream through the anger and the pain and the frustration that her boyfriend didn’t respect her enough to not destroy their home. And Jude would mutter apologies, as he started picking up the trash and she would join in until the place was clean and they both collapsed with exhaustion.
I’d hide until they were done. It was so scary. She was scary. She reminded me of mom. When we used to sleep with the lights on and run the electricity bill into the thousands. Mom used to go ballistic. But the night lights she bought did nothing to fend off the shadows dancing through the room. So, every night, we had no choice but to turn on our lamp and the hallway ones too. Even though, at the end of the day, she was right and the shadows never did anything to harm us. Not even when the power went out and there was nothing but darkness all around.
And Jude, that jerk, he would just up and leave me during all of this. Each and every time. I don’t know when he learned it, how to dissociate so cleanly from his body, just leaving me here with the consequences. So, I learned how to hide. And our body would sit there or clean or do whatever, all while being shredded by their words. It was horrifying to watch. I was horrified.
Jude went many different places when he left. It wasn’t some prescribed “happy place,” like people talk about. Sometimes he went to this cathedral-like place (in his head), and roamed about and looked at the pretty art and architecture. Sometimes he pretended he was a hero or celebrity, saving the day and basking in the glory. One time he imagined he and Julie won the lottery and moved to Spain and laid in the sun all day. He was in Spain now, shopping for fresh produce for dinner. (He was a little hungry, back in real life.)
I hated that he left me like that, every week, scurrying from behind furniture and under sheets. All while he was on vacation. Hiding was hard work too, because all the best spots were being cleaned. When he was here, though, Jude was a pretty great guy. We’d have so much fun together when he was high and giggly. Sometimes Julie would smoke too and I’d watch their years of wear and tear slip away, until it was just us in our plain and natural form. And we’d play games and draw and reminisce and just be. They both had a lot of trouble just being, in my opinion. Julie was always trying to be a perfect medical student and a perfect daughter, and Jude was always trying to escape.
Now, they were done cleaning and Jude was done apologizing. He had come back to his body and held Julie, as her anger subsided and her sadness about her dad resurfaced, until she fell asleep. And by that time, Jude was sober and wishing he had fallen asleep with her, so he didn’t have to sit in the consciousness that his life — the real one — was spinning out of control.
— Anaiah B. Thomas ’24’s column, “A Child’s Thoughts,” is a series of short stories about people whose lives are narrated from the perspectives of their inner children.
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