Everywhere We Could Have Been

Everywhere We Could Have Been

A Story by C.F. Boehlke

How did I get here? I wondered. Sitting down on my pack, I scooped up a handful of desert sand and watched it trickle through my fingers. It amazed me that the desert, which was teeming with the stuff, was so grand and harsh when, up close, the sand was harmless and warm.

 

Twenty four hours ago, my wife had been having a baby.

 

The baby wasn’t mine.

 

And then she died.

 

Like the desert full of sand, Earth had been overrun with human beings, moreso each year since I had been born. Like the sand, each new baby that was born seemed harmless. They were just innocent babes who couldn’t yet know how to hurt a fly.

 

Then how did this one turn my world inside out?

 

I tried to swallow but my throat was dry. The tears had stopped coming hours ago, and I was too exhausted to feel my hunger. The only reason I’d decided to stop and eat was that my limbs were getting too weak to carry my weight. I might as well eat a sandwich and not a mouthful of sand.

 

I adjusted my weight, allowing me to pull the bag of ingredients from an external compartment of my pack. The bread was thoroughly flattened but I knew I wasn’t going to be tasting much anyways. After hours of ear piercing screams as my wife had struggled to deliver that devil into the world, it had only taken moments for her heart to stop beating, leaving my world lifeless, colorless, and senseless.

 

----------------

 

I had gotten used to the hustle and bustle of the subway system, with commuters pouring from the gills of the train at every stop. I’d become accustomed to the sound of passengers humming, turning pages, tapping their fingers, grumbling under their breaths, and exchanging profanities as they jostled for a square foot of space inside the automatic doors.

 

Over a decade had passed since I’d prepared that sandwich in the desert, but I was the same empty man. I’d simply run out of things to do in exile. Why should I get to wander the Earth aimlessly? My wife, who’d loved travelling, would have cherished each memory from each place I had happened upon. I hadn’t seen any of them. All I had managed to do was stagger through one to get to the next, unseeing, unfeeling.

 

But oh, how I was thinking! The injustice of it all hit me one day, and I made the decision to return to reality. I dedicated myself to a life of banal service to The Man, the exact opposite of the existence I had spent all of my life attempting to build, as a self-inflicted punishment for having been a fool enough to let my wife stray.

 

If she hadn’t strayed, she wouldn’t have become impregnated with that b*****d child and she wouldn’t have died in childbirth.

 

Cold air blasted over the back of my neck as the subway doors opened with a whoosh, jarring my mind back to the present. Gripping the handle of my briefcase, I stepped off of the train and headed for the escalator. Allowing the crowd to propel me forward, my mind wandered back to her screams. Not a day went by nor a night passed without their sound haunting my mind.

 

“Make it stop, Josh, please! URRRGGGH! Make the pain stop!!!

 

“Oomph,” I heard a man grunt, and I stumbled. I watched in horror as my briefcase bounced and skidded across the floor while I tripped over a homeless fellow. I was horrible at watching where I was going these days.

 

Landing on all fours and scraping my palms on the concrete, I came face to face with the young man that I’d tripped over. He was clutching his side with both hands, which were outfitted in raggedy fingerless gloves, and wincing excessively, as if I had kicked him with all of my strength.

 

“You okay man?” I asked, sitting up on my knees and dusting my hands off as I looked for the briefcase. Spotting it a few feet away, I crawled and stretched around the feet of unsympathetic passers-by.

 

“What do you care?” The malice in his voice was unmistakable, shocking me. For the first time, I took a good look at his face. Something seemed familiar but I couldn’t place it. Hell, with all the people in this city, half of them look familiar.

 

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to kick you. I fell down,” I explained, semi-embarrassed.

 

“I know that, old man. Just get out of here.” Peering beneath a filthy layer of wool, the man appeared to be checking for visible wounds.

 

I should get out of here, I thought. It was a simple accident, nothing more. Then why do I feel compelled to stay? I had apologized and made sure he was alright. What more should I be doing?

 

“Oh hell, where do I got to go anyway?” I exhaled heavily, sitting down next to him and pulling my briefcase to my chest. He was young, in his teens at best, and he looked mortified that I was sitting next to him. “Why are you on the streets, kid? Don’t you have folks that are looking for you?”

 

“Nah,” he replied. He was obviously the product of a mixed marriage, with beautiful butterscotch skin beneath the soot and grime.

 

“Are you telling me you don’t have parents?” Hmm, I thought. You read about these kids all the time but you don’t often see them.

 

“Yeah, that’s what I’m tellin’ you. What’s it to you?” Crossing his arms over his knees and pulling them to his chest, he looked at me cautiously, as if I were going to bite him.

 

“Just doesn’t seem right, that’s all.” Opening my briefcase, I retrieved a plastic bag. Inside were the ingredients for a sandwich. I had carried the fixings of sandwiches with me each day since the desert, and had eaten one every day to remind me of what I had lost and why I didn’t deserve a better life.

 

I spread the mayo over the bread and asked the kid if he wanted to share it with me, but he shook his head, asking why I was sitting there.

 

“I told you. I have nowhere better to be.”

 

“You look like you have a job,” he retorted, gesturing at my suit, which was now covered with discarded wads of bubble gum.

 

“I do. Why don’t you have a job? You seem like a smart kid.” Slapping the turkey, lettuce and other piece of bread on, I cut it and set on half down on his knee.

 

“I don’t want a good life. I don’t deserve one,” he said, not touching the sandwich.

 

I took a bit, nodding and looking straight ahead. “Now that’s something I can relate to.”

 

“What did you do?” the boy asked, daring to show a sliver of interest.

 

“I did nothing. My sin was doing nothing.”

 

After a moment of silence, he picked up his sandwich and took a bite. I watched curiously as the corners of his mouth turned up with pleasure. How long has it been since this kid has had food?

 

“That good, huh?”

 

“Nah, it’s alright,” he shrugged. After a little hesitation, he added, “It’s just…well, it’s just that I’ve never had a sandwich before. I don’t have a mom and sandwiches always seemed like such a ‘mom thing,’ so I never wanted one.”

 

Swallowing the last bite of my half, I asked him what happened to his mom and was floored by his answer.

 

“I killed her when I was born,” he replied, matter-of-fact. “That’s why I live like this. It’s the punishment I deserve.”

 

There were no words for me to respond with.

 

So I took his hand.

 

-C.F. Boehlke

© 2012 C.F. Boehlke


My Review

Would you like to review this Story?
Login | Register




Reviews

Nice segue into each section. Clear, clean style and a connected narrative. Just a few typos here and there. The end poses a question, is he the man's son or just reminds him of his son.... maybe a bit more of the journey of the homeless teen could be revealed before the end.
Strong written piece.

Posted 9 Years Ago


An interesting twist to your story C.F., nice writing.

Posted 9 Years Ago



Request Read Request
Add to Library My Library
Subscribe Subscribe


Stats

392 Views
2 Reviews
Rating
Added on February 23, 2012
Last Updated on February 23, 2012

Author

C.F. Boehlke
C.F. Boehlke

IN



About
Hi! I am a recent college graduate and Second Place Author in the January 2012 Short Story Contest at Fresh Ink Group. Soon-to-be married, she dreams of seeing audiences worldwide have access to her w.. more..

Writing
Long Live Long Live

A Story by C.F. Boehlke