To a strangers home was a painstakingly tiring process. The light fixtures were always slightly too bright, causing you to squint crystalline eyes at all hours. The smells were never familiar and the sounds could cause the most patient man to toss and turn at night. No couch feels right to the touch; especially if your permeable fingers slip right through to the springs within by simply exerting too much pressure.
It was hard not to, these days. Every fucking thing was out of place. It was hard not to clench fists and slam them against all surfaces constantly.
This was not home.
He slumped onto the torn couch, leaning his head back slightly and letting out an exasperated sigh. He could hear giggling from the kitchen and he cringed with frustration. He covered his diaphanous eyes with one arm, wishing they could hear his cursing. Oh, how he wished that he could go home.
Here they come. Their hands were intertwined and their voices reached sing-song vibrations as they mouthed off to one another. They released hands swiftly, and the man fell into the chair opposite the old damp couch. She laughed as she fell backward into place right next to him, the ghost. He would forever be the down-trodden entity she could not see but never ceased to torment with her joy. Her feet were touching his invisible knee and he jerked it away without removing the arm over his once bright blue eyes.
He heard the soft plink of his guitar being strummed and his gut suddenly twisted in knots.
He turned onto his side as he pulled his lengthy legs from the floor. He desperately wanted to snatch a pillow and cover his ears.
The man played in silence for a while while as his girlfriend scrolled on her phone, sitting in absolute comfort and serenity. The moment was only broken when the man spoke.
“Honey… Did I ever tell you about who used to own this guitar?”
She shook her head, laying her phone down on one knee to focus on his words.
“He… killed himself.”
She gasped, “What? Why?”
“I don’t know. Who knows? Such a cowardly thing to do. He had a wife and a home…” He trailed off as he let that sink in, strumming the guitar once more.
“Wh- what was his name? Do you know?” She inquired, concern wrinkling her brow.
“His name was Leon. Oh and look at this,” he tilted the guitar toward the light, the scribbled word Leon was now glaringly obvious.
“I wonder… I bet he was really kind. That makes me so sad.” She frowned, running a finger along the edges of her phone in an attempt to stay grounded during such an uncomfortable conversation.
“No. He’s a coward. Like I said, who knows what he was thinking, but, it’s just such a petty and selfish act in my opinion.”
Leon was standing now.
It was uncontrollable. His hands were trembling. A darkness began to fall over the room. He was an invisible predator towering over it’s naive prey.
“You know… They say you go to Hell when you commit suicide for a reason, dear. You can’t just leave your loved ones behind like they’re nothing-”
An old lamp in the corner began to flicker and the man fell silent, his eyes widening. Leon’s entire body was shaking and his breaths were shallow. He had never felt such anger.
“Babe! Babe, I think we should stop talking about this. I am getting super freaked out!” She yelped, curling in on herself as she huddled closer to her boyfriend.
“I’m not scared of a coward!” He shouted, standing with the guitar in one hand. He dropped his whisky glass on the table after taking a quick swig, a scowl creeping across his face. And he too, was shaking like a fall leaf.
More lights began to flicker repetitively as Leon faced off with what he felt was his attacker. Those words had been said so carelessly, how could the man not understand regret? Weakness? Pain? Leon had never once meant to hurt anyone, at the time he had intended for quite the opposite effect. Leon guessed that perhaps it was selfish, it was foolish. He had never truly thought of the consequences… But, his anger was simmering just below the surface now as the man lifted the guitar over his head with both hands.
“Get out of here, ghoul! Or I will break it!”
“Babe! What are you doing? Are you crazy? Stop it!”
Leon just stood there, he was completely breathless now.
“I’ve seen the movies,” the man said, pushing his girlfriend’s dainty hand from his shoulder. “I’m not scared. Not of a coward.”
The small bookcase in the corner adjacent to the kitchen fell over and behind it’s chaos was Leon. He wasn’t sure how he had accomplished the act, but, he didn’t care. Leon stood among the shattered action figures and scattered books. His eyes boring straight into the man. Praying he would break the guitar, wishing for his freedom at last.
The man was about to bring the guitar down on the grimy wood floor, his slender knuckles turning white as he gripped the neck of Leon’s lifeline. He drew it over his head, his arms shaking from fear and adrenaline-
His girlfriend screamed and grabbed his wrists.
“Please! Stop it! Don’t do this.”
They struggled for a moment as tears began to pour out of her eyes. Once he noticed how truly upset and stubborn she was he threw the guitar into the kitchen with a frustrated grunt.
“Fine. You take care of it! I don’t want that coward’s shit in my house anyway!” He stormed off down the hallway, slamming his bedroom door with startling finality.
She was still crying and Leon stepped reluctantly from the wreckage to stand before her. His hollow heart ached all over again as guilt began to build, piling on top of his never-ending regret.
She stood there sobbing for a few moments before turning to the kitchen.
Leon walked in step with her as they crossed the threshold to find the guitar surprisingly intact on the pale tiled floor.
She grasped it gently and began to walk to the front door.
Leon didn’t move.
What is she doing?
She approached the door, turning the handle violently as she practically fell onto the porch.
They both moved reluctantly down the steps and around the muddied pathway to the dumpster that resided just outside the kitchen window.
She paused, the lid in her hand as she nestled the guitar among the bulging cheap trash bags and overflowing beer bottles.
She turned her face away as she snapped the lid shut, more tears seeping just over her lashes.
Leon studied her face, wading through her emotions as she pulled out a crumpled pack of cigarettes from the pocket of her worn hoodie. She struggled to light a smoke and Leon cupped his hands to block the wind that passed straight through his fingers. She tossed the cigarette into the mud, her patience completely zapped.
He stepped back, slumping his shoulders as they both stared at the broken cigarette she had ground into the watery dirt. He had never connected with an inanimate object more in his death. Tossed aside. Useless and quickly forgotten. He kneeled down, shaking his head sadly.
That was the problem… he would never be forgotten.
“I don’t think you’re a coward,” she said as she turned to walk back down the pathway.
She left Leon alone.
He was alone and chained to an anchor of death that would never be lifted from the depths of his ignominious and recreant decision in life.