The Incomplete Whole
(work in progress)
by E. Amado Williams
Chapter 1 -- Then End
The bruises on his dark, chiseled face had healed only slightly. The wounds that could not be detected by surveillance of the naked eye would not heal as quickly. It would take a very long time, a luxury that Juan Love had sacrificed for the sake of a fairy tale romance, passion far beyond pleasure, and nights when sleeping on either of his sides resulted in hidden tears and muted groans. His mind, emotions, and mostly his body screamed for an escape.
Juan stood in the doorway to his home office and simply stared. There was nothing in his heart other than the normal flow of blood making its way through ventricles, arteries, and veins. All emotion was gone for, to Juan, emotion was a feature that women exhibit when they finally hear the three critical words from their lovers that seems impossible to say: I love you. The room crucially reflected the color of loneliness and emptiness. It resonated silence and it housed a feeling of nothing. He looked intently at his dungeon, his Dante's inferno, with regret. This office, which represented a haven from the storms, had slowly and unconsciously become his prison in which hatred had maintained a constant post outside the door.
The wind blew through the window and brought in the fragrance of wild flowers, the smell of barbecue from the previous day, and freedom from what would have eventually resulted in death. The sunrays beamed through the billowing curtains like flashlights streaking through a dark, dusty room. Juan wanted to move into the light, but he felt something fearful. Like a vampire that refuses to allow the beauty of the sun to shine upon his ugly face, Juan maintained his position. He didn't walk to the window and gaze out to see his freedom, to look out and see how unblemished the sky was, to witness the majesty of the color green on leaves and grass, or to see just how dazzling the smiles were on the faces of the singing children who passed down the sidewalk. He turned and walked away. For having been in his dismal cell for so long, light hurt his eyes.
With slumped shoulders that were once broad and proud, Juan walked down the hall. He noticed now how short the hallway appeared, but recalled how long it took for him to make his way through it on certain threatening nights. He stopped for a brief moment, touched the wall just outside his office, and immediately withdrew his hand. It seemed that something woke up in the wood. Either something in the wood came alive or something that lay beneath the coat of eggshell white acquired a voice. He could hear icy whispers. Get out. Run. Save yourself. Though he knew the walls had no lips to speak with, he resigned himself to accept the myth that the walls probably indeed had ears and knew the dirty secrets that existed in the house. The walls, floors, and furniture in every part of the house had absorbed the screams and cries that rang out through some of the most ominous nights. As the floor creaked under Juan's footsteps, he could hear more voices speaking clearly to him. "Leave before it's too late. Why are you still here? It's not safe here."
Breathing became slightly hard. Everything began to move in slow motion. Juan hated this effect, the same nightmarish result where escape seemed futile. He realized that in the office was a part of him that he could no longer see, touch, or feel. He desired to find that portion of his self that hid somewhere in the corner of the room, tucked away so that no one would see a face streaked with tears, blood, shame, and hopelessness. An incomplete body stood outside wanting to be whole.
Juan closed his eyes and wished happiness for the man in him that took up residence in the office and covered his face from light and from the eyes of the world. When he opened his eyes, he looked across the hall and noticed his reflection in the mirror that hung at eye level. However, he stared through his image as if he were looking at a ghost. He could detect four long lines down the side of his right cheek, a gash over his left brow, and a knick on his upper lip. He walked over to the mirror, gazed deeply at his image, and noticed for the first time that he could not see his eyes. Not only was he indistinct in the mirror, the eyes that he saw were blank, dark and empty.
Thinking back, Juan remembered hearing family members remark on his characteristics. He had his father's chiseled cheekbones, charming smile, forehead, and mahogany color. He had his mother's nose, small ears, full lips, and wavy hair. No one ever said anything about him having either of his parents' eyes. His father's deep-set eyes were alluring and presented a Japanese slant when he smiled. His mother's eyes, though large, were captivating to all who beheld her elegant face. He now understood why no one said he had his father's eyes or his mother's eyes. Their eyes were beautiful and happy. Juan's eyes were ugly and sad.
Juan sighed and started once again to move down the hallway. He stopped just outside his bedroom and peeked in. The canopy bed, matching chest of drawers, and nightstands looked more like a snapshot out of a magazine for interior design. Juan's eyes saw something else, something sinister and evil. Visions of him being broken in the very bed that stood before him rushed before his eyes. The obscenities, filthy instructions, slaps, and his expected obedience played out in his mind vividly and he realized just how much he hated his bedroom. Pieces of him lay scattered on the bed, under the bed, and in various corners of the room. When the sunrays began to push through the window, seemingly stirring up dust, Juan stepped away from the door. The buried part of him in the bedroom would not come out and allow the beams of the sun to brush his face anyway.
The bathroom became the next spot in the house Juan revisited. He cut on the light and looked at himself in the mirror. His reflection was more opaque than it was when he stared at his mirror image in the hallway. He turned to the bathroom door when he heard the faint sound of a man screaming, "Help me." He could see a ghost of a man trying to bar the bathroom door from entry. This man, like the reflection in the mirror, had no eyes. There were muted sounds, sounds that gave no indication of pleading. The actions of the man depicted his fear of what awaited him on the other side of the door. Juan gulped, closed his eyes, counted to ten, and opened his eyes, expecting the ghost who fought with the door to not be there any more. What he saw was the man crouched in the corner of the entrance with his legs pulled up to his chin, his arms around his legs, and his head buried between his slightly parted knees.
"Why?" The ghost cried out the question and shook his head from side to side. Though the question was monosyllabic, it seemed to have taken forever for him to get it past his lips. Garbled with hiccups and stuttering, he kept shaking his head from side to side and asking "Why?"
Juan stared with painful sympathy as his nose burned from him fighting the tears that preferred to flow freely from his eyes. He started to reach out to the ghost and then he retracted his hand. He attempted again and once again pulled back his hand. The ghost looked up and Juan could see tears running from the nothingness that were eyes.
"I'm sorry," Juan spoke in a choked whisper.
"Why?" The ghost continued to croon, looking at Juan and expecting an answer.
With hands clasped over his mouth in a teepee fashion, Juan swallowed hard to fight having emotions over what he witnessed. An episode he remembered from his recent past was now on display like a bad recurring advertisement. He wanted to answer the question the ghostly man asked now as bad as he wanted someone to answer the question when he had initially asked it. He closed his eyes and turned away from the scene. He opened his eyes and looked up in the ceiling, realizing that the bathroom also housed part of the broken him. When he turned around, he noticed that the door was open and there was no moaning ghost.
In the kitchen, Juan was more at ease. However, sadness had not deemed the kitchen as sacred ground as the devil has rightfully regarded the church. Under the pots and pans existed a little of his forehead, cheeks, and chin. On the tines of one of the forks was some of his left hand and arm. The edge of one of the knives had collected a few centimeters of his forearm. On the edge of the rusty nail that jutted out from wall near the pantry existed several inches of his shoulder. Before he could get emotional about how his absolute presence had been stripped in part in the kitchen, Juan hurried into the family room and breathed deeply.
While looking into the mirror in the family room that hung over the settee, Juan realized that he was an incomplete man with pieces of him all over the house. It had been years in progress, but the fractional man in the mirror was Juan. The longer he gaped at the reflection, the more it vanished. Soon there was nothing left of Juan, no happiness, no sentiment, and no love.
The sound of the lock turning on the front door echoed throughout the family room. Juan stood frozen in place as he could see the deadbolt turn counterclockwise. Before the door could open, he ran over and placed the chain on the door so that he could deny entry to whoever was coming from the other side. He then ran towards the spare bedroom, breathing in frantic gasps. He could hear banging on the door to the main entrance into the house and he began to inhale and exhale almost like someone hyperventilating. Bang. Bang. Bang. He knew the person was coming to get him. There were no commands to open the door, just the canon sounds of the thuds on the hard wood. Bang. Bang. Bang.
The closet in the spare bedroom seemed like the best place for an escape. Juan frantically ran in and squatted down, keeping a cruel silence so that no one could detect him -- namely the person rapping and kicking on the door. The sound of the door swinging opened with a punctuated force, slamming up against the wall, reverberated through every crack and crevice of the house. Juan sweated as if he had been reclining on a beach in Jamaica during the month of August. There was something vicious walking down the hall, sniffing out the smell of his fear like a bloodhound chasing after a fugitive.
Juan looked through the slats in the closet and saw a pair of black pants and black high heel shoes walk past the entrance to the spare bedroom door. He breathed out with a sigh of relief when the pants and shoes continued without stopping or pausing. It was something all together different when the pants backtracked and stood in the door. In a zigzag fashion, the pants and shoes moved from one side of the room to the next, taking so much precious time that it seemed forever. Juan placed his hand over his mouth and nose to stifle any sounds of breathing. The pants and shoes continued, coming nearer, moving methodically slower. Nothing could be seen above the waistline of the pants, but danger was the beast that filled out the pants and placed the shoes, one in front of the other closer to the closet door.
The door jiggled and Juan screamed in his mind. No sound exited his lips. He began to shake, not violently, but like someone recovering from frostbite. The door shook fiercely. There still was no entry. Now, Juan wanted to scream, but he couldn't pry his lips apart to yell. He stealthily backed up into the closet more, shuffling shoes and fallen clothes racks, keeping his eyes on the closet door, noting the shadow of the black pants through the thin slats. After a few seconds of rattling the door, the shaking and pulling stopped. A quiet awaited Juan on the other side.
Just as Juan felt safe, he crawled over towards the closet door and peeped through the slats. The pants and shoes were nowhere to be found. A few more seconds passed and Juan slowly placed the palm of his left hand against the closet door and gave a mild push. As the door opened, he saw just the shoes. He sighed. Suddenly, something from behind him in the closet grabbed him, wrapping one arm around his upper body from the left. A hand, reaching from the right, covered his mouth.
Not thoroughly across the line separating dreams from reality, Juan could feel the arms holding him tightly. He tried harder to fight off the hold, but with a futile attempt. He woke up kicking and screaming. He feared the pants and the shoes.
"Juan, wake up," a voice, flavored with concern, called out.
Juan looked around, realizing that he was no longer in the closet, but not fully cognizant of his whereabouts. He surveyed his immediate surroundings and noticed that his brother was sitting next to him on the bed.
"Where am I?" Juan asked, still shaking from his nightmare.
"You're in New York," his brother responded, his face exhibiting puzzlement. "You're no longer in Chicago. You were having another bad dream. It's over now."
The view of Manhattan through the window across the room made it evident that Juan was no longer in Chicago, no longer in his nightmare. He held his hands up to his eyes and cried.
"No, it's not over. When will it ever end?"
There was no answer. It had been two years, mild depression, and a suicide attempt, and there still was no end to the nightmares.