Sea of Tears
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By Ari Gilder
The bell rang and I leaped from my seat. I couldn't stand class any longer. I was glad the weekend had arrived and school was over. I had a four-day weekend waiting for me to relax, relieve the stress, and catch up on sleep. To me, the weekend was everything I could have hoped for. A chance to forget about my worries, kick off my shoes, watch TV, hang out with my friends and not have to worry about all the work that the teachers piled on.
I couldn't stand the work...that was the worst part about school. I could deal with the learning, taking notes and taking tests...but the work was what killed me. Every single teacher thought that they were the overlord of my life and that I had nothing better to do with my time than sit at my desk and waste three hours on homework. Sometimes it got me so angry that while I was sitting there and doing my work, a big grin crept across my face and I burst out in laughter. Yeah, I started laughing. Know why? Because the teachers knew that I had so much work, and yet they still gave more and expected me to do it. And the funny part is that I did it! I gave in to their sick and twisted schemes. And so I laughed for a good fifteen minutes, and then continued working with an occasional twitch or a slightly insane smile.
I grabbed my book bag and slung it over my shoulder, hurrying to my locker. I snatched one of my notebooks from my locker, and then slammed it shut. I'm not really sure, but I think some of my friends picked up on some negative vibes coming from me. But at that particular moment, I didn't really care. I tried to cool off a little bit without anyone else noticing, and I was successful.
I exited the school, and started to walk home. I saw a guy I knew, someone from my class, standing by the side of the school building. I took a few steps toward him, interested in why he was standing there alone. When I was close enough, I realized that he wasn't just standing there, but he had a can of red spray paint in his hand and was scrawling some obscene words about his opinion regarding the school on the wall. When he completed his masterpiece, he signed it with his initials 'D.T.' I smirked at him behind his back, because Danny Treza was the kind of person who would cause a lot of trouble, show off about it, and still never get caught. I turned around and continued on my path.
When I got home, I had to fiddle with the lock a little bit. After half a minute, I managed to open the door and I quickly deactivated the alarm. I climbed up the stairs, dropped off my bag in my room, and then returned downstairs to the kitchen for a nice snack. I looked in the refrigerator and all I saw were fruit, no junk food or cookies or anything. I sighed and forwent my daily afterschool munching. Then I noticed the light on the answering machine flashing...two messages unheard. I pressed the button and listened carefully.
"Message 1. One thirty-two P.M." the mechanical voice introduced. "Hi Robbie, it's Mom, I've gone to pick up Jason from his karate class. I'll be back soon."
Mom's message was short and sweet. "Message 2. One forty-six P.M." I looked at my watch...only four minutes ago. "Mom! Mom, it's Jason. Where are you Mom? I've been waiting here at my karate class for half an hour already! Come pick me up already! Bye."
My little brother...he was only eleven, but he was a royal pain in the neck. Sometimes I couldn't stand him; I wish I could just grab him by the throat and wring his neck till his head popped off. Mom loved him though. She was thrilled about him taking karate. She always bragged to her friends "my son is a blue belt in karate!" and they always stood in awe of her, as if she had split the Red Sea or something.
The messages ended with a soft beep, and I plopped myself down into a chair. I glanced at my watch again and I realized that I was supposed to take my girlfriend out to the movies soon. I ran up to my room and dialed her number on my private phone line, faintly hoping that she would be able to relieve my stress and soothe me.
The phone rang four times. I was about to hang up, when I heard a hasty "Hello?" The voice was my girlfriend's voice alright. She sounded like she was panting or gasping for breath, as if she ran to get the phone or something. I thought nothing of it.
"Hey Jess, how are you doing?" I said cheerfully.
"Uhh...I'm alright, how was your day?" Jessica said, sounding a bit disconcerted.
"Oh it was...not all too bad...is something wrong?" I thought I heard a tinge of concern in her voice.
"No, no! Nothing at all, I'm fine, perfectly fine. Sorry, I...uhh...wasn't expecting you to call this early."
"Oh...okay, well will you be ready at four o'clock when I come to pick you up for the movie?" I asked, trying to hide my excitement and anticipation.
"Oh, right, the movie..." Silence for a moment. A moment that seemed like it lasted all too long. I heard a murmur in the background, and then again a little louder. It sounded like a deep, male voice inquiring 'Is it him?' I didn't fully catch the impact of it until Jessica responded.
"Yeah...the movie...look Robbie, sweetie, I'm really sorry but I...I just can't make it today. I know I promised to come with you, but I really am just not able to come with you. I'm sorry, I have a biology report to work on."
"But you never told me anything about any biology report that you had. Don't tell me you got it today, you never start reports till the week before they're due anyway," I analyzed the situation.
"Well...does that mean I can't-" she broke off abruptly. Again, the deep murmur, but this time incoherent to me. I began to believe the worst. "Look Robbie, I'm really not feeling well, I don't want to get you sick or anything." Jessica was beginning to sound flustered and nervous.
"Sick? You weren't sick when I spoke to you yesterday. What do you have?" I pressed her for details, trying to get to the bottom of this.
"I...have terribly high fever, and I have a terrible cold. A hundred and ten degrees. Doctor said I should stay in bed, I shouldn't even be talking on the phone now," she bluffed blatantly.
"Is that the voice that I heard, Jess? Is that the doctor? Because I know your doctor doesn't do house calls since he's kinda my doctor too," I tried to catch her in her convoluted lie.
"Robbie, what are you talking about? There's no-" A silent pause. "There's no one else here in my room. Robbie, what are you trying to say? I don't understand you." I heard her begin to weep since she knew she was caught.
"Goodbye Jessica. I don't need to go with you to the movies anyhow. I hope you feel better," I said vitriolically and slammed the phone down on the hook. One hundred ten degree fever. I don't think she realized that she'd be nearly dead with that. Some biology report.
I sighed despondently, and let myself fall freely onto my bed. I began to think about all my troubles. In school, I wasn't doing so well, and I had failed my last math test because I hadn't understood anything we learned. I myself had three reports due in two weeks, and I hadn't started a single one of them. And now on top of everything, Jessica cheats on me with some guy. I didn't even want to think about what she was doing at that moment.
And then, as always...there was Dad. Dad was probably the biggest problem I had. He thought that I was exactly like him, and to a certain extent I was...but that's what scared me. Dad always used to get drunk every other day or two, and when he came home he sometimes started hitting Mom. He hit Jason too, occasionally. He never hit me though. I was his pride and joy. I was like a carbon copy of him but younger in his mind. And in truth, I got frustrated just as easily as he did with people. I never called the police, though I always knew I should have...but I was afraid to let Dad down for fear that he might start hitting me too. But I really didn't want to grow up and be as abusive as him. That's what I feared the most.
I felt several scalding tears fall down my face, as if they boiled off my skin as they plummeted onto my pillow. I rarely cried, I was a pretty tough guy, but this was just an eruption of emotion from within that couldn't be contained any longer. I stuffed myself under the covers and curled up into a fetal-like position, shivering and twitching. I fell asleep shortly thereafter for at least three or four hours.
When I woke up, Dad had just arrived home. When I saw that he was sober, I breathed a sigh of relief as if I had temporarily forgotten my sorrow. Mom called me down to get ready for dinner, and I did so slowly. Jason was already sitting at the table with a smile that made him look like the devil disguised with a halo. Mom patronizingly tried to ask Dad how his day was, and he answered briefly, but that ended the dialogue between them.
We sat down to eat at the dinner table like we did on most Friday nights. Mom had fixed up a delicious meal, but I only picked here and there at my food.
"What's the matter Robbie?" Mom inquired. "You don't like the food? Too hot? Too cold?"
"No Mom, the food's fine, I just don't feel like eating," I answered placidly.
"Well why not? Is something wrong? Do you not feel well?" Mom pressed on.
"Leave the boy alone, Janet," Dad demanded imperiously. "I've had a hard day at work, and I'm sure the boy's had a hard day at school too."
Mom shied away from the topic and got Jason to tell the family how his karate lesson was, and what he learned in science today...but I just tuned out, uninterested.
After dinner was over, Dad got up and rested his hand on my shoulder. "Say, son, care to go for a ride?" he asked. "Maybe we can uncover what's buggin' ya." I had no other choice but to agree.
We got into the car and started on the road with silence pervading the car for the first few minutes. After that we got to talking about stuff in general...but I never mentioned what happened with Jessica. Somehow, I think he was able to get an idea of what happened though. He pulled up the car and told me, "You know son, when I have troubles I usually go and have a good time, I forget them. I think what you need is a good time. Come on." We got out of the car and I saw a building with a sign that said "Ringo's Bar and Grill."
We went inside and sat down, apparently in Dad's usual place. As soon as we did, I already felt relaxed, as if a heavy burden had been lifted from my shoulders. Dad called out, "Yo! Ringo! The usual, times two!"
The bartender turned around and approached us. He examined me carefully and asked, "How old are you kid?"
I hesitated slightly. "Uhh...I'm 21, my birthday was three weeks ago," I said, even though I was really 16.
Ringo looked at me for a minute and then said on the side to Dad, "This your kid Dan?" Dad nodded, smiling. "Good kid. Take good care of him," Ringo said as he turned around to get us drinks.
We overheard some loud shouting close by, and I turned to investigate. Two men were fighting over who broke the television in the bar during the football game. I kept my distance, but listened in intently. By the time Ringo had gotten them drunk enough to calm down and keep from damaging anything, they were all chummy and overly friendly with each other, ranting about their wives. I think by that time I too was sufficiently inebriated and began to spew out all my problems and what got me angry. I managed to hold my tongue from mentioning anything about Dad, because I knew he would have nearly killed me there on the spot if I had.
The drinks kept coming and we all had a good time, I myself barely conscious of what I was saying. I don't remember how long this all lasted for, but I know that after we were done with our escapade, Dad and I got in the car.
We drove around the entire city for a very long time. I wasn't even aware that Dad was driving under the influence. Somehow he managed to avoid getting us killed though. But after some time, started to see black and green and purple spots before my eyes, and then I passed out.
I have no idea what went on then, but I was lost in my subconscious mind, dreaming. I saw myself in a small boat, sailing across my sea of troubles. I was surrounding by an ocean of scalding water, and when a drop of it splashed onto my skin it felt like a familiar sensation which I had experienced not too long ago.
The boat seemed to be heading in all directions. When I looked to the right, it seemed to be moving to the left. But when I looked to the left, the boat altered its course. My predicament reminded me of something we had learned in English class, "water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink." I couldn't remember where it was from though, I think it may have been some sort of rhyme or poem, but I wasn't sure.
The water around me became some sort of acid and it started eating through the hull of the boat. I clung to the mast, falsely hoping that someone would come and save me. I began to spin around and around in the acid sea, like I was caught in a whirlpool. I spiraled into the eye of the horrid vortex and then nothing. Blackness.
I then saw myself groping around blindly for the ground, with a crowd of people beginning to gather to see what had happened to me. I noticed that I was dressed in a business suit, and that I was much older. I glanced at my surroundings and I slowly became aware that I was outside of a courtroom.
"Mr. Palmer, please step inside, the jury is waiting to deliver your verdict," the bailiff informed me.
I got all my bearings together and I stepped inside to the courtroom, and mindlessly approached the defendant's table and sat down. Faces were staring at me, slightly scornful it seemed.
"All rise for the Honorable Judge Daniel Treza!" the bailiff called out. I was shocked that my old classmate had become a judge and was going to be judging me for a crime that I didn't even know I committed.
Judge Treza walked in and sat down. "Has the jury reached a verdict?" he asked, apparently unconscious of the fact that I was once a good friend of his.
"We have, your honor," the foreman announced. "We find the defendant guilty on all three charges of first-degree murder."
First-degree murder?! I killed someone? My surprise had grown tenfold. I had no idea what to say or think.
"Robert Isaac Palmer, for three charges of brutal first-degree murder, I sentence you to life in jail without parole. Bailiff, please escort him out," the Judge decreed.
The court fell silent for a moment, and I bewilderedly began to stammer incoherently. The only full words I managed to get out were, "At least tell me who I murdered!"
A loud gasp resounded throughout the room and the Judge began to get angry. "Is this some kind of joke? Who did you murder? Bailiff, before you throw this filthy criminal to rot in prison for the rest of his life, take him to the cemetery so he can see what he has caused. This case is adjourned!" The Judge stormed out disgustedly.
The bailiff grabbed me violently and handcuffed my hands behind my back and shoved me out. We got into a police car and drove to the cemetery, which wasn't very far from the courthouse. The bailiff forced me out of the car and let me down a row of graves. When we stopped he pointed out three graves with elaborate headstones. "Look at what you did you sick and twisted individual!" he remarked with contempt.
I looked down at the gravestones and I saw each one had only one word on it. One said "Mom," one said "Jason," and one said "Jessica." I nearly fainted from awe at what I had done. I probably would have died there on the spot, but I heard a voice tell me something that kept me from falling to my knees as a lifeless cadaver.
The voice sounded very familiar. "I'm proud of you son. You've become just like me," the hollow voice said. I'm not sure whether it was just a voice in my head, or maybe he had followed me. I couldn't mistake it for anything though that it was Dad's voice. I shuddered and my head dropped down to glance at the gravestones once more. Mom, Jason and Jessica. I screamed out loud, but yet my mouth didn't open. Maybe I had heard the scream, or maybe it was an internal scream. When the shrill shriek let up, I fell to the hard and cold cement, face first, and everything was gone. Blackness again.
I snapped out of my state of unconsciousness after that horrifying image. I looked around and I saw that I was lying in our garden in the back yard. I began to lift myself off the ground, but then my eye caught hold of three large stones among the lawn. Their shapes resembled that of a gravestone, and I had feared the worst. I took a moment to think and then I realized that those stones were always there just for decorative purposes. I got up and thought about my whole dream, and what it meant. It didn't strike me until I got into the house.
After I entered through the door which was left wide open, I heard some sounds coming from upstairs. I heard Mom screaming and Jason crying, and I knew that Dad had gone at it again. I almost ran out of the house like most of the times that this sort of thing happened, but I stopped myself. I thought about the dream and the eerie voice. I didn't want to become like Dad. I couldn't let myself escape through cowardice and maybe do this to my own family one day. I knew what I had to do, and this time I did it. I quickly dialed 9-1-1 and explained hastily what was happening to the operator, and I urged her to send the police as fast as she could.
Within five minutes, I heard the police sirens blaring as they drove down the block and entered the house. One of the cops saw me hiding in the kitchen, and he nodded at me, and then ran upstairs with his partner with his gun in his hand.
"Freeze!" I heard one of the cops yell, followed by the sound of handcuffs being locked. The two policemen led Dad downstairs a minute later. Dad spun around and growled at me ferociously as they shoved him outside into the police car. I smiled to myself while watching this as Mom and Jason crept downstairs to see where I was and thank me.
The next day, I walked by Jessica's house to see what she was doing, but it hurt to bring it up in my mind. She must have seen me from the window, because she ran outside with tears running down her face and her arms flung out. She gave me a big hug, at started stuttering, "I'm so sorry Robbie! I couldn't...it was terrible, I'm so sorry! He tried to...."
Jessica started to sniff and cry in between words. I didn't catch every word she said, but I got the idea of what she was trying to say. What had happened to her was terrible, and she had no choice but to lie to me. I held her tightly and gave her a kiss and told her that everything would be alright.
Jessica and I are married now. We have two children of our own, and we care for them deeply. Jason is still in college, and Mom lives by her sister now. As for Dad, none of us ever went to visit him in prison. I found out two weeks ago that he passed away in jail. This is the first time I've visited him in over ten years.
Lying at my feet stands a large and elaborate headstone overshadowing a grave. The gravestone seems like it is the size of three smaller ones put together. Upon it is engraved one single word: "Dad."
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