MY BEST FRIEND – by Ivan Zoric

blood

I will always be your best friend.

Ghosts are back with first dark. The blizzard is a drunken sailor, throwing fists at my windows in white rage. The walls of my bedroom protest this violence with a shriek of wood, making me miss my childhood brick home. I’m sitting, propped up in my bed for going on the third night with no sleep, and staring at my tormentors. They occupy every corner of the room, their eyes unblinking pools of darkness, following my every move.

At first, I wondered why I always see them in the corners, never straying away further than arms’ length. Then I remembered. I killed every single one of them from behind. Even in the afterlife they are afraid to turn their backs on me. But you wouldn’t know anything about it, right? Because you’re a fucking saint.

I still remember the day we first met. We were what, three?

You came pedaling down the street on that new tricycle of yours, all sunshine and smiles. I was nursing gashes in skin, an imprint of parental love, too afraid to cry. One look at you, and envy came pouring of me like a toxic wave. It is not fair, you know? Three year olds should not be able to feel stuff like that, not even as a primal instinct. Then again, things have a way of playing out different around you, don’t they?

Not even after I swung at you with my jacket, pockets filled with rocks, did you stop smiling.

“ Look, we both bleed now!”, you laughed. “ Want to ride my bike?”

Funny how kids start friendships with a transaction. I should have never climbed into that seat. Not at this price. You bought me, just like everyone else, with a handful of kindness.

I have loved you throughout – for all these years. I never questioned that. It was a simple truth of my existence, just like my dad’s drinking or my mom’s misdiagnosed bipolar disorder. Every time I was sent to the store for beer, or to the floor for mouthing off, I would hold on to that smile of yours in my head, and I would manage. Even as the country descended into the madness of civil war, I knew that as long I was around you, things would somehow be okay. You knew how to heal broken spirits and broken bones with a single word. It was your Gift showing, even that early on.

Oddly enough, you could never recognize jealousy or hate. Whatever was the thing that made you who you are, a beacon of hope for many, also made you blind to all emotions that were like flashing neon signs to me. You only saw the best in people. I only saw the worst. So, I did the only thing I could.

I protected you from it.

Remember the kid who went missing in senior year? Sasha, the basketball player, driving the red Mazda around, making fun of kids for wearing cheap knock-off Nikes and Levi’s? The one whose dad owned a tombstone business, and eventually had to make one for his kid’s empty grave? Life size statue, no less. Yeah?

I split his head open with an axe.

You never noticed his girlfriend falling for you. How could you? You were lost in books, talking about Däniken’s theories and Nazca Lines while helping her to pass English class.

It was never more than tutoring for you. Oh, but it was so much more for her. The way her cheeks turned red every time she would pass by us in the hallway, the way she played with her hair as you tried to explain her indirect speech during the breaks, it was all so clear. And not just to me.

Sasha could see it too – and he hated your guts, man. There was a storm brewing, I could sense it. One too many times I could hear him whispering to his buddies how he would end you, if anything happened with you and Ana.

There are no coincidences. Things happen for a reason, even though it seems as we are just swimming in primordial soup of randomness.

The night he disappeared, I was getting shitfaced at Talia’s. I was so drunk, in fact, that I fell asleep on the toilet, unaware and unwiped. I woke up when Sasha entered the stall next to mine and started talking to someone on the phone. He was going to beat you up that night. Bloody-up that pretty boy face, was the way he put it. Make sure you never came close to Ana again. He knew you were tutoring her and was going to jump you on your walk home. Baseball bat and brass knuckles.

I tiptoed outside while he was still on the phone and found his car running. Without thinking I hid in the back between the seats and grabbed the first thing I could find.

He whistled as he drove. I waited until we parked in the dark of Memorial Cemetery, where he was planning on jumping you. I hit him with the axe right as he was lighting a cigarette, the skull making a wet, egg-cracking sound. Dead on target.

I wish I could say it made me nauseous. I wish I was more like you and that taking a life did not make me calm and centred, as if I had just found my life’s purpose.

But I was not.

I was not like you.

I was me, and I always had been.

I whistled the same song Sasha did as I drove the car to my dad’s pig farm. I whistled it still as I chopped the body and ran it through steel burr mill and mixed it with ground corn. Damn pigs, man, they’ll eat anything. Funny, but months later, after they gave up searching for him and finally decided to bury an empty casket, sausages made from those same pigs were served at the wake.

I will always be your best friend.

Your first wife? She hated you, you know? She might have loved you once, but yours is a cold shadow to live under. You don’t love selfishly as we do, you don’t turn love into an us-against-the-world fairytale.

It is always us AND the world. The whole fucking world. It’s the Gift running through you, making everyone who loves you resent you in time. They can’t keep up, they can’t be the lighthouse you are, always weathering other people’s storms. Saints are not meant to be loved, just worshipped.

She fucked my brains out that night. It was revenge sex, of course, a middle finger to your reputation as a philanthropist and peacemaker. The one who brought peace could not bring his wife to climax. Or, at least that’s what she said as she was pumping my cock, not looking at me, but somewhere beyond the walls, to wherever in the world you were at that moment.

“You know what the worst thing is?”, she said. “He actually really is that nice. Not a mean bone in him. I fucking hate it. The whole world puts him on the pedestal and I am supposed to be there, right next to him, just as holly. I can’t even…I just can’t. He won’t fuck me the way you do. He’s always gentle. It’s sickening”.

I kept silent and thrust away. I did not love her, it was just friction. Something else, too.

I knew what her plan was. There was a camera hidden in the wall, recording our session, every embarrassing detail displayed in full 4K resolution. She was planning on going to the tabloids with it. She loathed you so much she’d rather crash and burn than be married to a saint.

I strangled her before she came. I wasn’t going to give her even that much of a satisfaction.

She died cursing your name. I was nothing more than a tool for her, and I was OK with that. I understood it. I had already mastered the art of the cover up, by that point. She was just one of the many who had tried to bring you down, and had the misfortune of running into me first. A self-appointed watchdog. It took two phone calls to turn it into a robbery and sexual assault. The world cried with you the next day.

They are both here tonight, with all the others, clustered around the corners, waiting. There is glee on their faces, even with those dark holes instead of eyes. A welcome committee.

I am not afraid. Not of them, not of dying. The cancer is eating me from the inside, but I refuse the painkillers. I welcome the agony. One is not suppose to leave this world peacefully. At least not one like me.

This is your world now and I have no place in it anymore. You have succeeded in your mission. Humans are better now. Kind, empathetic, understanding. The Gift has spread across the globe like a virus, reaching even the most distant regions. They had prospered and they are about to reach for the stars. I suppose, in a way, you really are a saint, even if you deflect the notion every chance you get.

I am the only leftover piece of the old days. I do not belong and I do not approve. Mankind is not supposed to be this docile, this perfect, but this was never my decision to make. I was just here to keep you safe and you will never even know it. Maybe it’s for the best. At least this way someone will mourn me.

I hate you. I love you.

You will always be my best friend.

 

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