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  • Eddy was the kind of guy who would tell you to "have a good one" and genuinely want you to have one, and that it be good.

    I'd been listlessly watching the priest for the past hour dramatically recite passages from the bible, feigning sincerity and sorrow over another stale corpse. But, this corpse wasn't just any corpse; it was the empty vessel of my best friend, Eddy. By vessel, I of course don't mean that I believe he'd carried a soul that had now departed to some paradise, because I don't believe in such juvenile things. Although, if there was a heaven, I'm sure he would have been admitted.

    It wasn't like he was perfect, like anybody, he made his share of mistakes. I can't count how many hearts he'd broken, unwittingly manipulated naive girls merely by his congenial nature. He never meant to do any harm, but you'd never hear him make one excuse for himself. It was this quality that really set him apart from the others. Everyone else was full of it, but Eddy, he owned up to everything he did. He was the only authentic person I'd ever met, and he legitimately wanted the best for everyone around him. Out of all the others, I had hoped that he would've escaped this incestuous quagmire of a town. He was the only one that deserved to.

    As I walked up the aisle to view my friend for the last time, a hard lump developed in my throat. I couldn't help but think about what a supreme waste of potential lie before me like an eerie wax sculpture. His artificial rosy cheeks and unnatural tranquility were too much to bear. My ears burned and I stumbled back toward my seat. I never should have gotten up, or had gone to the service at all for that matter.

    We shuffled out of the crowded church one by one like cattle. Eddy would have had an awful time. If he'd written a will, I'm sure it would've given specific instructions not to do any of this theater. For one, he didn't even believe in god, although he didn't like to talk about it much, since he hated to ruffle feathers. Some people become alienated and nihilistic after losing their faith, but not Eddy, it's what fueled his strong moral accountability. Coupled with a heavy weight of individual responsibility, he was often plagued by a dread of nothingness. He once told me that he hated going to sleep, saying that it was the closest thing to being dead while still alive. It made me queasy to think about Eddy facing his greatest fear—oblivion, but I guess I can find solace in the fact that nobody experiences it, really. In any case, to Eddy, funeral services were a waste of time, and burials a superfluous use of space.

    It was an uncomfortably hot afternoon, and all of this black was greedily devouring the sun. As I watched my best friend get lowered into the clay, sweat mingled with my tears, stinging my eyes. I turned away and looked around at the sorry scene around me--a pathetic flock of sheep, going through the motions of grief--if only they'd all drown on their crocodile tears. I wish that the sun would set his casket ablaze and cremate him like he would have wanted, blowing the ashes in everyone's face as one final "fuck you," causing them to gag on their bullshit forever.

    ***

    Once again, I found myself in a crowded apartment, surrounded by fedoras, facial hair, and skinny jeans. I stared at my drink while everyone around me defecated pontification. The ceiling was lined with Christmas lights, casting a deceptively warm and inviting glow. A mixture of Warhol prints and poorly made stencil art peppered the walls. A large bookshelf was packed with Bukowski and Hemmingway—mostly unread. It reeked of stale sweat and cheap beer.

    Stacy Evans had decided that there should be a grand memorial party thrown in Eddy's honor, and that she was, of course, the most appropriate person to throw it. Although, even if Eddy were alive and in full health, she would have come up with any other number of reasons to throw a party. The only way that she and the others knew they existed was if they perpetually stroked each other's vanity. I hid myself away in the corner by the staircase, and looked up at a framed picture of that iconic can of Campbell's soup. I felt myself grow more agitated. Why had I accepted her invitation? I could have easily declined, made up some excuse as to why I couldn't attend. Then again, maybe I couldn't. I always had the intention of avoiding these gatherings, but there I was, yet again, standing near the staircase, that damn can of soup staring me straight in the face.

    "I miss him too." Stacy waltzed up and declared with her most convincing mask of melancholy. She was wearing one of her multiple sets of fake thick-rimmed glasses, and had recently shaved half of her head, following the latest trend. She looked like she'd lost a bet.

    "Uh huh." I replied.

    "He would have loved the service." She said, now adding a slight positive tone to her voice, and patting me on the back.

    I wanted to throw her hand off of me, and slam that hackneyed Warhol print in her face.

    "Sure." I replied meekly, keeping my head down and continuing to focus on my drink.

    She gave me a quick emphatic smile and jumped off to express her despair to another guest.

    I decided to step outside onto the porch for a cigarette. The sun had set but it was still oppressively humid.

    "Can I bum a smoke?" A guy said to my right, as if he were choking on his apathy.

    "Sure." I replied and handed him a cigarette, doing my best to hide my irritation. You couldn't get a moment to yourself; they were crawling everywhere, like roaches.

    He sat down on a broken rocking chair and habitually wiped his greasy hair from his eyes. "You're Eddy's Bud, yeah?" He said after a moment, taking a drag of his cigarette. "I've seen you two around these things."

    "Yeah, we were pretty close." I said, more defensively than I would have liked.

    "I heard he was a pretty nice guy. Did what he wanted. Like, carefree." He said.

    "That's what they say." I said with as much indifference as I could muster.

    "Let's pour one out for him." He said ironically, and dribbled a few drops out of his can.

    "Fuck off." I seethed, deciding to walk around back to escape.

    As I walked toward the back yard there was a couple pressed up against the side of the house groping each other, their tongues shoved deep down each other’s throats. Behind them, a chubby guy in plaid was pissing. I squeezed passed them in disgust, and headed toward a familiar face. Brian was sitting in a lawn chair by the keg under the outside lamp. He was lengthy, wore tight faded denim, and sported a scraggly blonde mustache. He looked like a pedophile, but he was all right—at least he knew he was full of shit.

    I leaned up against the wall next to him.

    "Who let you out of your corner?" He teased.

    "I needed air." I sighed, finishing my cigarette.

    "And booze!" He shoved another red solo cup in my hand. "Drink. You need it." He said in a rare moment of sincerity.

    "We've been going to these stupid parties since high school; you'd think people would get sick of them. I mean, fuck, it's supposed to be a god damned memorial."

    Steve turned to me and tipped his drink, "Cheers. Let's get plastered."

    ***

    Norine's is a 24-hour diner that we'd always stumble into drunk after Stacy's parties. I mindlessly sat down in our regular side booth. The mud colored upholstery was torn, the table stained and sticky, and the window beside it cracked. It wasn't a very attractive hangout, but we had claimed it as ours—had even carved our names into the wall next to it when we were younger. They knew it was us who'd done it, but they didn't care. Even they recognized it as ours.

    "Rough night?"

    I groggily looked up from the table and simply nodded in reply.

    "I'll bring you some coffee."

    It was Heather, the regular late night waitress. She was pretty, with kind features, and even though she was always stuck with the worst night shifts, she carried an infectious air of positivity around her. It takes someone kind of extraordinary to constantly deal with the dregs of the night, and handle their harassment with grace. Eddy had been enamored with her. He used to draw out his food orders just so she'd stick around for a little while longer, as if the extra two minutes would be enough time to finally swoon her. If it were a really slow night, sometimes she would sit and chat with us for a while. Her company always added an air of sweetness and charm to our usual banter. Eddy made no effort to hide the fact that he was smitten.

    "Here you go, Hon." Heather appeared with a large mug of coffee, not bringing any milk, knowing it would have been wasted on me. She sat down in the lonely seat in front of me and gave me a warm smile, "I'm so sorry..." Her voice was quiet and concerned, small tears began to fall from her cheeks. Out of the hundreds of times I'd heard that same thing today, she was the only one that I believed. It hurt my chest.

    "It wasn't supposed to be like this." My voice was quivering. "I don't know what to do. He was the one with all of the ideas."

    She reached out and held my hand. Her touch was soft, comforting, I didn't want her to let go. I began to break down.

    "Sweetie, there's nothing that you could have done." She said reassuringly, "At least he had such a wonderful friend while he was here."

    "I should have gone out that night, driven him instead of those assholes!" My mind was racing. I couldn't have given two shits that the others had all died, but why did they have to take him with them?

    Heather's hand tightened around mine.

    "I can't stand it here anyway, and they've killed my only fucking friend!" I fumed. My face felt hot, and tears rushed down my face. It was getting difficult to breathe.

    After moment I began to feel embarrassed.

    “I know what you mean.” She said quickly. “When I finish school in a few months I'm getting the hell out of here. I've been saving up for a long while now." She looked around for a moment and said under her breathe, "This place is like quicksand, it keeps pulling you down—sometimes it feels impossible to keep your head up."

    It felt good to have some corroboration.

    "Where will you go?" I asked. The thought of her disappearing from my life now filled me with anxiety.

    "It sounds cliché, but I figured I could go and get lost in New York City..." She blushed at the admission.

    "Makes sense, with such a dense population, you're statistically bound to find at least a couple of people that are all right." I said wryly. "And, I guess we can't hang out in Norine's our entire life."

    "Definitely." She said.

    A few customers walked in.

    "I have to get back to work." She sighed.

    As she slid her hand away and stood up, she leaned over and kissed me on the forehead. "You'll get through this."

    I felt a pang of guilt and turned to her. With slight hesitation I said, "He thought you were amazing."

    She turned back with a smile and replied, "I always had my eye on someone else."

    A mixture of shame, elation, grief, and alcohol was waging war on my insides. I drank my coffee hurriedly and left the restaurant, shyly waving Heather goodbye. I didn't want to leave open the chance of ruining the only pleasant thing that had happened to me in what seemed like an eternity.

    When I got home, I looked at Eddy's car. He had left it in my driveway the night he had carpooled with the others. I walked inside of the empty apartment, the space felt oppressive. Everything was stained with memories that threatened to drown me. My heart raced, tension crawled up my spine—I didn't belong here anymore. I immediately began to pack my things. What Heather had said repeated in my mind. There was nothing here for me, and I needed to tear myself away from this place before I suffocated.

    I threw everything in Eddy's car and drove back over to Norine's, where I quickly handed Heather a letter. I hopped back in the car and sped toward the airport. I had some money saved, and I would figure out the rest along the way. I would rather chance it somewhere else than wait around to die.

    ***

    "Sir?" A flight attendant tapped me on the shoulder, "We've reached our destination." She smiled, taking down my luggage from the overhead compartment. I groaned and looked around. Everyone else had already gotten off of the plane. The entire flight I had been consumed by a dreamless sleep—the kind closest to death. As I arose, life and excitement began pumping through my veins.

    "Thank you so much." I said sincerely.

    "No problem!" She said cheerfully. "Enjoy your stay in New York!"

    I thought about Heather reading the letter, and then picking up Eddy's car from the airport. I figured she could sell it and the rest of my things. I had stolen her idea, but I was never too great at coming up with them on my own. Maybe I could even aid in her escape.

    "I think I will." I replied. "Have a good one!"
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