Short Story Contest Submission: Tensh_iie – I’ll Try Not To Destroy You
„I’ll try not to destroy you“
Warm rays of sun wavered through the window, bathing the room in golden lightening. Birds were tweeting on the outside, talking and singing almost as if they wanted to greet the new day that was rising from the ground. Another warm and sunny day in Los Angeles. Another day full of chances, dreams and opportunities. Another chance to make things right.
Standing on the back porch of his house, a young man took in a deep breath, letting the fresh air rush through his body and fill his lungs with oxygen, as he stood there and greeted the new day himself. He did that every morning, no matter how the weather was outside. No matter if the sun was shining, or rain came crashing down from the sky. It didn’t matter. Every morning at six-thirty A.M. he stood in the same spot, in the same position – taking in the first deep breath of the day. It was a ritual, something that meant a lot in Jon’s world – the world he lived in.
Looking up from the ground, he watched a pair of blackbirds jumping over the green grass of the back yard. They were probably searching for some worms or seeds, which they could fill their growling stomachs with. Or maybe they were on the hunt for little branches they could use to build a nest somewhere. Who knew – Jon most certainly did not and yet he enjoyed watching them.
Smiling gently he finished the cup of coffee he was holding, another ritual that he fullfilled every morning, and turned around to step back inside the house, closing the sliding door behind himself. Every morning started the same; a routine that never got old.
Why does life have to be so hard?
When all I want is to be perfect?
Ben Green was sitting on a pillow, which was placed on one of the kitchen chairs so the three year old could look over the table, and most importantly, eat properly. The boy had jet-black hair, also dark eyebrows and his eyes were dark brown as well; almost black and they seemed bottomless when you looked him in the eye. Today, he was dressed in a dark blue shirt, with a smiling face on the front, as well as a pair of blue jeans, and a pair of little Chucks. Jon had searched for those shoes everywhere, just because they finished the outfit off completely and no other kind of shoe seemed to fit more perfectly then this. It had taken him weeks to find Chucks in this certain color, navy blue, but the young father just couldn’t chose anything else. It had to be perfect, no matter what it would cost. There was no other option; at least not in his mind.
Anyways, the little boy sat at the table, his father next to him as they both ate their breakfast. They looked so similar that neither of them could deny having a blood relation to the other. Both their hair was kind of longish, covering their foreheads, and in Jon’s case even reaching over his eyebrows, at least somewhat.
“Daddy, today zoo!” Ben happily cheered while he ate his oatmeal. By now the toddler was pretty well trained when it came to eating on his own, even though sometimes he still required his father‘s help. Even in his young age of three, he had learned that he had to try extra hard to succeed in everything he was doing. Sure, he would fail here and there when it came to learning a new thing, which was totally normal for his age. No toddler was perfect, they simply couldn’t be.
“I know, baby. Are you excited?” Jon cooed and gently kissed his son‘s hair while he ate his pancakes and read in the morning paper, catching up with whatever had happened in the world since yesterday. Having breakfast with his son, reading the newspaper while doing so, all this were other rituals; things that always were the same in the Green household. It was hard to keep a straight routine with the three year old around, but yet again… Jon had to try, he just had to.
“Yes, me is,” Ben nodded and pushed another spoon of the sweet breakfast between his tiny lips and reached out to get his sippy cup, filled with cocoa. Unfortunately the baby’s cup was placed too far away for him to reach and so it happened that Ben couldn’t grab it properly and before he knew what was happening everything was covered in chocolate milk.
Getting scared by the sudden accident the toddler squeaked out, and Jon looked up watching how the cacao crept over the table and dripped down onto Ben’ shirt and pants. “Oh dammit Ben, watch out!” Jon burst out as he stood to his feet, letting his chair tumble over and hit the floor with a loud crash. The loud noise and sudden outburst of his father made the toddler cry, huge tears were rolling down his cheeks. “Oh fuck, look at this. What a mess,” the black-haired male hissed as he walked towards the sink to get a damp cloth so he could clean up. “Just awesome, now I need to clean all this up and change your clothes. We’re going to be late, Ben. Couldn’t you watch out? Or ask me to get you the sippy cup?” he said, his voice sounding deep and angry, while his eyes were fixed on the table which was still covered in chocolate milk.
The little boy was still sitting in his chair, from the top to the bottom sticky and dirty while he cried. He didn’t want to push over the sippy cup. He didn’t want to make everything dirty, especially not himself. And he, most certainly didn’t want to anger his father. And yet he did it.
Just then the front door opened and closed, announcing that someone had joined them. “Good morning,” came a cheery male voice from the hall, which immediately stopped as the noise of Ben’s upset cries were heard. Sean, Jon’s best friend since high school, came by every morning to look after the young father and his son. Sometimes he even stayed over night, or for a few weeks, but if not he came to check in on them every morning.
Stepping into the kitchen Sean, a tall slender brunette covered in colorful tattoos, walked over to the toddler, who was still sitting in his chair, while Jon cleaned the table and the floor, still muttering and hissing. “Hey Benni-bear, what happened?” the brunette asked as he picked the kid up, not caring that he would dirty himself by doing so. “No Sean… he’s all covered in…. argh just great, now your shirt is ruined too,” Jon spoke, his voice now sounding pretty upset and his heart seemed to beat out of his chest. “He ruined everything, why couldn’t he ask for the sippy cup?”
Everyone says, think differently.
Try to be happy, but it’s not that easy.
Just when Sean wanted to say something, the kid now clinging on to him, slowly calming down, Jon turned around again and looked at his son. His precious little son was clinging on to another man, holding on to him for dear life just because he had screamed at him. He had scared him, had taken all his anger out on him even though he knew he was just a toddler. A baby. He didn’t know better, did he? Ben was trying to be a big boy, to manage things on his own, trying to do it perfectly just how Jon always tried to teach him. And for that he screamed at him; how stupid was he?
“Oh god… I screamed at him, Sean. I fucking screamed at him. I’m such an asshole,” he whispered and fell to his knees. His eyes were fixed on the ground and thoughts were running wild inside of Jon’s head. Why was he even trying to raise the kid on his own? Why didn’t he give him to someone else, a foster family for example? He would have a way better life there, right? He was unworthy to even have a son. Creatures like him shouldn’t have kids. He shouldn’t even exist. He’d rather be dead.
Sighing, Sean looked between the toddler in his arms and the man in front of him. What should he do now? Whom should he help first? Taking a deep breath he kissed Ben’s cheek before he looked back to his friend.
“I’m going to take the boy to his room and change him and then… we can talk about this,” he said, his voice sounding firm but Jon didn’t even react. He kept sitting on the ground, his pants getting soaked in chocolate milk as he kneeled in a puddle he hadn’t cleaned yet. But he didn’t even take any notice of that. All he could feel was failure, emptiness and hate. Hate for himself and what a bad father he was. Thoughts of how Sean could take way better care of his son than he himself. And again anger rose inside of him. But now the anger was concentrated on himself, not only on Ben anymore. He was angry with himself for being so mean and unfair towards the kid, but he was also still mad at the boy for being so careless. Yeah, he was even mad at Sean for being so… perfect. For being everything Jon wanted to be, but never could.
And when I get upset over their
A few minutes later Sean stood in the middle of Ben’s room, the little boy sitting on his bed, naked as on the day he was born while Sean searched his drawer for new underwear and clothes for him to wear. His mind was running around what had happened and how he had to hurry here so he could go back to Jon as soon as possible. But right now, the little three-year-old on the bed was first priority.
Collecting everything he needed he walked back over to the bed and started dressing the boy who was still upset, but not crying anymore. “Alright little Otie, slip in here,” Sean laughed as he pulled the little under-shirt over the kid‘s head, who willingly let him do it. “Do you know why your daddy yelled at you like that?” he asked while they proceeded getting dressed.
“Me pushed over sippy-cup,” the toddler answered, his face still beet-red from all the screaming and crying while some tears still hung on to his long, dark eye lashes.
Sean sighed, “Yes, but… but he screamed at you that much because… you remember daddy has this disease, right?” he asked, hoping the kid would remember all their other talks about this and see where he wanted to go with it. It wasn’t the first time that Jon flipped out on Ben like this. That he screamed at him for odds and ends, or sometimes even when the boy got too clingy or too close to his father. Something totally normal for a kid at his age, but sometimes way more then Jon could handle. And by now the only chance to live with it was to explain to the child why his father was reacting like that. Making sure that he wouldn’t get caught in the thought that Jon might not love him, because that was far from true. Jon loved Ben – a lot. This little boy was all he lived for and yet again, he didn’t make the other man’s life any easier – quiet the opposite even.
“Daddy big feelings,” Ben nodded and Sean smiled, seeing that the kiddo indeed remembered their last conversation, which wasn’t so long ago. “Exactly. He has really intense emotions and he… he feels some things way more then we do, that’s why the accident that happened to you was such a big deal for him, plus… it ruined your clothes and now we’re going to be late for the Zoo. But…” Sean chuckled and gently poked the kid‘s nose, “…it’s not that bad, right? Such things happen, you can’t be perfect… no one can,” he finished and kissed Ben’s forehead.
“Daddy be good again?” he asked, looking at the older male with huge dark brown eyes, which were still surrounded by a few single tears, which made his gaze even more pleading and touching.
“Well, maybe. If he keeps going to talk with this lady, you remember her? We once met her in this huuuuuge,” Sean motioned with his arms, “… house and she had this pretty office.” The toddler nodded, remembering the said place very well. He had been scared by all the people, the huge building and even more by the over friendly, red-headed woman with whom his dad had to talk to – three times a week. The little boy even wanted to stay there, making sure that Jon was all right and the strange woman, with her glasses on, wouldn’t hurt him, but Sean had insisted that Jon would be fine and so Ben left with him.
“Well, he has to keep talking to her and take his medicine and then… maybe one day he will be fine again,” Sean nodded, getting a sick feeling in his stomach. Jon tried to beat his medical conditions for quiet a while now but not with much success yet. But they couldn’t give up now, not now that he had indeed agreed to start therapy. Everything would be all right again – it had to be.
“Me help daddy,” Ben suddenly announced and slipped from the bed just to walk over the end of it where he grabbed his favorite stuffed animal – a white polar bear that he cherished like nothing else. Whenever Jon had such a phase again and Ben was around, he would go and give the bear to his father to show him that he wasn’t mad at him, that he indeed loved his father very, very much, no matter what had happened.
“Okay, let’s go down and see where he is,” Sean smiled and picked up the toddler so they both could go back to the kitchen and see what the other man was up to. He probably was still where they had left him, still cursing about what a bad father he was and how he did not deserve anything – not Sean, not Ben, simply nothing.
I’m afraid of the world
and everything I did…
While Sean went upstairs to talk to Ben, and more importantly to change his clothes so they could head to the zoo soon, Jon stayed in the spot where he had sunk to his knees minutes before. His head rested on the ground, his hair wet with cocoa as he kept muttering about what a bad father he was and how he did not deserve anyone – no one. He deserved to die, that’s all. Maybe he should do it again. It had been so long since Jon had last hurt himself, almost a year by now. Sean always kept saying that it was something Jon should be proud about. But how could he be proud of it? Hurting himself wasn’t anything bad to the younger man. Hurting himself was a relief, something that felt incredibly good and let his body feel numb. Something that Jon had always enjoyed and he still couldn’t understand why everyone kept saying it was something bad, something dangerous. It wasn’t dangerous. It’s not dangerous if you cut yourself bleeding, or hold the candle as close as possible to your arm so the burning flames can carve their marks into your skin. It’s not dangerous if you don’t mind dying – not at all.
Maybe he should get up, grab the kitchen knife and just do it, just get it over with. The tension inside of his body felt unbearable, it felt like… like it was pushing from the inside, filling up Mike’s whole being. Like it was pressed against his skin, almost… almost like when you blow up a balloon. The more and more air you blow into it, the bigger it gets until it bursts into a thousand pieces when it reaches its capacity. Difference: Mike is not a balloon and he can’t burst into a thousand pieces. But he can hurt himself and relieve some of the pressure inside, like cutting a breathing hole into a carton when you transport your newly bought rabbit from the pet-shop back home. A breathing hole – yes, that sounded good.
Just when he wanted to get to his feet, Sean came back into the room, Ben safe in his arms who was holding his stuffed polar bear. “Hey there… come one, let’s get cleaned up,” Sean chirped happily and sat Ben down on a chair. Looking up Jon felt something wet sliding down his cheek, dripping from his hair and he reached up to brush it away. He was such a mess. At first he had screamed at his son for pushing over his cup and covering himself in chocolate-milk and now? Now he was too. He wasn’t better than a three-year-old.
Wincing he got up to his feet, shaking slightly as his head started to spin. Getting up too fast was deadly, as it seems. Thankfully he had the table nearby to hold on to and steady himself while Sean started to clean the floor. “I would suggest you go upstairs and into the bathroom, I’ll come and help you in a bit,” Sean smiled and Jon immediately went into defensive mode again.
“I don’t need your help, Sean. I can take care of myself and of Ben too… we don’t need you!” Jon screamed, his eyes fixed onto the other man, and it seemed like he wanted to launch at Sean every second. But by now, the brunette was used to such behavior from his friend so he just shrugged and continued cleaning. “Are you deaf? I just said we don’t need you and your smiling face all the time. We’re fine by ourselves,” he said again and reached out to grab the wet cloth from Sean’s hands but he just tumbled over and almost fell down. God, he was so pathetic, such a mess.
How do I stop being angry
with people who did nothing wrong?
All these intense emotions,
I wish that they were gone.
As usual Sean simply ignored Jon’s words, something that really hurt but he had learned that if he spoke back now, he would just make things worse for all of them, so he kept cleaning carefully. Shaking his head Jon took a deep breath tumbled past Sean and out of the room so he could get cleaned up. His hair was sticky with hot chocolate and he definitely needed a shower before they could go. Surely Ben’s day care group was gone by now and it would leave them to go to the zoo with the toddler. Not that Jon minded but… it had destroyed their plans, their routine and being spontaneous wasn’t anything that the young father could do easily. Tears slipped down his cheeks as he undressed and climbed into the shower. He would clean up and get dressed again so they could head out soon.
Reaching out he turned on the water, making sure it was hot enough to hurt as he climbed in and started to scrub his skin with a sponge. He started slow at first but soon he was scrubbing so hard that his skin hurt even more, not only from the hot water that came pouring down. But Jon didn’t feel it, he only felt the sweet relief wavering through his body. The more the water hurt him or the sponge scrubbed over his skin, leaving red streams and even blood at certain spots, the lighter he felt, the better. It was heavenly and he had missed this feeling so much, oh so much. Maybe he didn’t need to go back to cutting himself or burning himself with a candle or its wax – maybe this was the new way to get along with all the bottled up stress and tenseness.
After Sean had finished cleaning the kitchen and had put everything away that was still left over from the breakfast he picked Ben up again and carried him into Jon’s bedroom. He would place the kid in front of the TV while he checked up on his father. He knew that the black-haired male had lied as he had said he wouldn’t need him. Jon needed him, and he knew it but sometimes all his feelings got into his way and when he felt backed up against the wall, mostly by himself, he said those things. It had taken Sean years to get used to it, or at least to learn that it wasn’t Jon’s true feelings speaking. He was just… overwhelmed by himself and his emotions. In reality he did like Chester a lot, a little more then that even but… he wasn’t ready for anything romantic yet and the brunette could very well accept that.
“Alright Benni-Bear, you stay here and watch some cartoons while I check up on your dad,” Sean smiled and placed the toddler on his father‘s bed before he turned on the TV. Kissing the kid on the forehead he moved to leave the room and check in on Jon in the bathroom. The water was crashing down, noisily splashing against the shower walls while thick steams started to waver through the room, and blinding Sean. He knew something like this would happen. Jon had probably turned on the water way too hot, burning himself under it, another way to punish himself for what had happened in the kitchen. Sighing Sean knew what to do next too. He stripped down his clothes, only leaving himself in his boxer shorts as he stepped closer to the shower. His hands were balled into fists and his heart was beating a mile an hour. He always got nervous when Jon was in such a state, even after all this time he knew him now but – but he had to be strong, the other man needed him now.
Carefully he opened the sliding doors and slipped inside the shower stall, biting his bottom lip as he felt the hot, burning hot water on his skin. Reaching out he turned the temperature down before his gaze fell on to Jon and what he saw broke his heart all over again.
The young man sat on the ground of the shower, his hair wet and clinging to his forehead, even more now than in a dry state. His arms and legs were blood red, some parts scrubbed open and tiny traces of blood flew down just to be washed away by the water immediately. Jon’s whole body was red – he looked like a cancer while the water kept crashing down on him. Not only had he chosen a very hot temperature for his shower, no, the water pressure was intense as well. It seemed like Jon had found another way to punish himself, to harm himself whenever he felt powerless over his feelings and emotions. Sighing he kneeled down and reached out to take Jon into his arms, “Hey buddy, come on… wake up,” he cooed softly before he reached up and turned the water to ice-cold hoping it would bring the other man back. Biting his own bottom lip as the water crashed down on his own body as well, but he would sit through this. Shaking he embraced Jon even more he moved him so he was leaning against him as the younger man slowly came back to himself.
Gently Sean kissed Jon’s hair and caressed his skin, stroking lightly over all the marks on his forearms, brushed away the blood while the water still surrounded them in the shower stall. “Oh Jonny,” he whispered and again he kissed the other man’s hair and his ear, “I just wish everything would be okay,” he added and just held the other man close to his body.
They had been here before, a lot of times. And if not here somewhere else. The worst situation had been when Sean had found Jon sitting in his closet, a knife in his hands as he tried to cut “breathing holes” inside of his skin so all the pressure of his feelings and emotions could escape just like that. He just wanted to feel free and light and not as if he was drowning in all this, all these sensations flooding his body while his brain had massive problems to comprehend them. Sean had been scared to death and he knew Jon needed help and soon. Since then the other man had agreed to try therapy sessions but even that was a slow and long process because, well, let’s put it easily, Jon wasn’t too willing to share his story. But there was no other way. People like him did need medications but most important, he needed to work through his problems, through the reasons that this disease had taken its upper hand on Jon.
It wasn’t easy to be with Jon, to be around him and to take care of him, but for Sean it was the most normal thing in the world. He knew how people reacted when they heard what Mike was, when they heard the word “Borderline.” He knew it all too well. All of them acted and talked like they knew what was going on inside of his head, like they could imagine how Jon felt – but none of them could, not a single one of them. Also all those doctors and therapists. They all looked at Jon like he was an alien, like he was… some kind of weirdo when he was just… well, what was he?
Jon was a normal person, a normal 25-year old man with a son. Sure he might feel more intense than other people and he might love more passionate then someone else. But that doesn’t make him any less special, does it? It might be hard and difficult to be around him and he might hurt the people he loves once in a while, but besides that… there are also so many wonderful things no one ever thinks about when they hear the word “Borderline.”
They just see skinny women, crying and cutting their arms open and screaming silently for help. They just see little teenagers who think it’s cool to hurt themselves, so their friends may pay them attention. But no one… no one really thinks about what it means to be a Borderliner or yet… to live with one, or even be friends with one. But Sean knows. He knows the awesome feeling that settles inside his body when Mike hugs him, caresses his hair or tummy when they sit together on the couch and watch a movie. He knows the flood of sensation that rushes through his being when Jon plays with Ben, when he’s teaching the toddler something new or maybe even, when they lay in bed together and the young father reads his son a bed time story. All those simple things are long forgotten.
Jon is like everyone else, his level to feel and express his feelings are just different. And sometimes he… he just can’t express them and then… things like this happen. Then he goes to hurt himself but not because he thinks it‘s cool to wear scars, no. He hurts himself because for him there seems to be no other way to get rid of all this tension – for him there is no other way. He needs to learn that first but that’s a long and rocky road.
But Sean had learned that it wasn’t important that the whole world couldn‘t cope with Jon, that not everyone needed to understand why he was feeling the way he did. He had learned that the most important thing was that Jon, himself, understood that it wasn’t bad to be a Borderliner, that there wasn’t anything bad in this disease. He had to learn that a few people would always push him away, that they would never understand him. But that wasn’t important, not at all.
The first therapist had told them Jon needed routine and structure – but that was non-sense. All Jon needed was someone who loved him, who loved him for the person he was, with all his up’s and downs. Someone who would always be there for him and try to understand WHY he had become this person he was today. He wasn’t born like this. Things and events had made him become this human being he was today but still – didn’t he deserve to be loved after all?
Carefully Sean leaned down and again kissed Jon’s ear, whispering lowly, “I love you, Jonny, no matter what will happen. I’ll always be by your side,” while a single tear slipped down his cheek, getting washed away by the water immediately. “I know, Sean. I love you too,” Jon’s thin, hoarse voice whispered back and it took a second for the older man to understand, but when he did he just pulled Jon even closer.
It didn’t matter what people would think, because he understood Jon in a way no one else would ever be able to. That’s why they would stay together, no matter if Jon was a “Borderliner” or not. For Sean he was the most special person in the world, someone truly amazing!