Noble X — Episode 1: Cowardice & Heartbreak

Noble X — Episode 1: Cowardice & Heartbreak

By Mike Vinopal

It was his personal winter of discontent. The New Great Depression was on the horizon and just over that, the New Renaissance awaited. John was on the brink.

The phone is ringing. A young woman picks up on the other line, happy to receive the call. Sylvia hasn’t heard from him all day. "Just got home. What are you up to?” John tries to keep his voice pleasant despite his inner turmoil. He doesn’t want her to know what’s up. As the conversation proceeds, it becomes harder and harder.

John half-lies and tells Sylvia that he'll be over in a little while to complete their travel plans for his spring break. John is a teacher. Austin, Texas had once sounded like a wonderful plan. Now it makes him sick. Sylvia has been bugging him for a week about nominal fares she has found but he has given her several excuses.

The phone conversation ends and John sets down his phone, looking around at his somewhat cluttered apartment. He sighs deeply and begins somberly collecting items throughout his apartment. Any mementos or belongings of hers. Or those of which belonging to the memory of her. He carefully places them in a reusable grocery bag. The bag is blue, he notes, and begins to weep as he continues. For John, blue is sadness, yet somehow his favorite color. Books, DVDs, anything & everything.

Finally he peels away the photo strips on the mirror in his main room, leaving one. The only one that doesn't have her in it. The only one that he did by himself as a tribute to her. Single handed sign language and clever aesthetics. "I love you” he had tried to say with his hands, body, and eyes that day.

He has a quick flash of that moment at their friend’s wedding, as he emerged alone from the photo booth. Sylvia had made fun of him, called him a narcissist, and didn’t even bother to appreciate his subtle statement he had so carefully crafted in the midst of all that love, dancing, and drinking. John feels the pang of how it had actually hurt because she didn’t and wouldn't realize he was doing it for her. Perhaps it was the first of the subtle inklings of divergent paths along the trail of love he once began with Sylvia.

Carefully he splits the photo strips evenly and puts his share in an old shoe box, dumping the previous contents in a scattered pile on his spare bedroom floor along with some other things that he can't bear to part with for his treasure chest of broken relationships. John keeps these little tokens so that he can cherish the positive times with hopes to move forward with love in his heart for the people that his exes had become. He stares at himself in the mirror with the loan photo strip in frame, crying softly because he knows it's time to face the music that he heard in the back of his mind since Christmas time. Christmas had been wonderful but it was also then that he knew he would have to make a change as he found he was no longer happy and neither was Sylvia. During their whirlwind visits to his family and hers, he realized that she didn’t really love him for who he was but who she thought she might mold him into. And John knew that part of him stayed with her for fear of hurting her and still worse, for fear of having no one.

So John, blue bag in hand, walked out to the street, climbed into his car, and pointed it in Sylvia’s direction. Arriving minutes later, the voices in his head grew louder, screaming at him to be done with it. And even upon his arrival at her door, his cowardice won out momentarily. He entered as he normally would, hugged her, kissed her, and set his bag down. Sylvia offered to make him a sandwich and he thanked her. As he sat at the tiny dining table while she grilled his cheese, the voices in his head grew louder still and John struggled to maintain composure, trying to engage in small talk about their respective days, while his internal dialogue screamed at him to end it. With every bite and subsequent chew, his composure cracked and his ability to pretend faltered. She asked, “Do you want to look at airfare?” to which he replied, “Yes. Let’s go to your room."

John shut the door, turned to Sylvia and unloaded his burden, trying so hard to be gentle. But no gentleness can change that a broken heart hurts so badly, in a way that physical pain cannot compare. The flood gates had opened and as he struggled to explain his reasons why they could no longer be together, he became overwhelmed by her unrelenting sadness and cries of "Why?" 

Cowardice once again took hold and John ran out of her room, out of her apartment, and out of her life. He climbed back into his car and screamed and cried and lashed out at his steering wheel, one thousand fire demons of pain, clawing their way up his spine and out his mouth. Minutes ticked by like hours and exhausted, he at last calmed himself enough to drive safely home, dragging himself into his bed, sobbing to sleep.

Stay tuned for Episode 2.

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