“Point that gun away from Yale,” thundered Sean before his body began to move on its own. He felt himself reach for the armed man’s pistol.
The next thing Sean could remember was seeing the attacker on the ground, with what seemed like a dislocated shoulder and blood pouring out of his right leg.
“I called an ambulance. We better run before the cops get here,” Sean heard his friend say. “You didn’t have to shoot his leg so many times. I thought you were going to kill the poor chap!”
Broken out of his trance, Sean grabbed Yale tightly by the wrist as they made their escape into the night.
Sean roughly pinned Yale against a lamppost, in a quiet park eight blocs down the road. Despite Sean’s firm grip, Yale could still feel a light tremor on his shoulders.
“Are you okay?”
The question sounded like a threat, the demanding voice echoing through the lonely streets. Sean scanned Yale’s body for signs of injury and continued:
“You weren’t shot were you? Are you okay?”
“You’re welcome,” chuckled Yale, as he felt Sean’s hard, worried gaze weigh down on him.
With a noticeable effort to calm his pounding chest, Sean shot a questioning look at the fellow trapped in his awkward embrace.
“Come on, isn’t this what you wanted?” asked Yale. “Ever since that incident three weeks ago, you kept going on about how you couldn’t feel anything anymore and how you felt empty and dead. Didn’t you want to feel something? You were the one who said that you would rather feel pain than nothing at all.”
Yale grinned and stated, satisfied of his feat: “Well, your eyes don’t seem very dead to me right now!”
Sean’s heart tightened as his thoughts crystallized in his mind. It hit him: Yale purposely put himself in danger. Yale expected him to save him. Was he mocking him? Did Yale just assume that he cared about him? What arrogance. Waves of heat rushed to his head as he realized how much Yale knew about him to be able to accomplish such an oddly efficient stunt. In an attempt to protect himself from friendship, as if being understood meant being vulnerable, he violently shoved his friend aside as he clenched his fists.
“I don’t need you!” bellowed Sean. “You don’t understand anything, three weeks ago, that little girl died because of me. Which part of getting yourself killed too did you think would make me feel better?”
Yale, having lost his balance from the shove a few heartbeats ago, decided to stay on the ground and comfortably laid there, both hands under the nape of his neck. Desperate for a reaction, Sean pushed aside his boundaries and gushed:
“She was only five years old. They contacted me. I knew exactly where, when, how it would happen. I could have warned the child’s family. I could have done something. No one listened to me but I could’ve made them listen. I watched Sasha die. The bullet went straight through her head while I was holding her in my arms. Hey, do you know what a skull looks like once blown open? Do you know what it’s like to have fractions of a child’s brain splattered onto your hand while they’re still warm? Your attitude disgusts me. How can you walk away from that and still live life so nonchalantly? The fuck’s wrong with you?”
A few seconds of silence passed by, enough for Sean to think that he might have said too much. After all, he did not actually know what Yale could be hiding under his happy appearance.
“Sean, do you think Sasha is going to come back if you keep making everyone around you miserable?” gently answered Yale. “It doesn’t matter how valid or justified your reasons are for isolating yourself from the rest of the world, no one wants to be around people like that. It doesn’t matter how big your problems are. Nobody cares.”
The blue-eyed man sat up, as Sean sat down next to him. Yale ran his fingers through his defeated friend’s hair as he continued with a smile:
“I’m not telling you to forget Sasha, quite the contrary, really. But it’d be a good idea to stop dwelling on what can’t be changed and to stop acting like you have more rights than everyone else just because you went through something difficult.”
What am I supposed to do now then, Sean thought to himself as he walked away without a word.
“You could start by clearing your name. Don’t forget, they did frame you! As far as they’re concerned, you’re the only guy who could’ve killed her,” Yale exclaimed, catching up from behind.
A fiery torrent of obscure absurdist humour must have ignited a flame within both men’s hearts, as they both simultaneously burst into a genuine fit of laughter. Nothing was particularly funny per se, nor was their situation any less than grave, but out of respect for their sanity, laughter felt like the bridge that could hold these two honest men together in a world that seemed to conspire against them.
Their tangled hands were warm in the autumn breeze, as they held onto each other.